So I know I'm rather late to the party for this, but I just saw the film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky's cult classic Perks of Being a Wallflower. In fact, I just left the theater maybe an hour ago. My head is so full of thoughts that I couldn't bear to not write about it immediately.
Now, I have absolutely no intentions of reviewing this film because this isn't a blog for reviews and I'm not a critic (at least not a professional one). However, it goes without saying that this easily evoked a healthy amount of introspection on my part. I'm not trying to sound self-centered, but obviously that is the beauty of Chbosky's work: most people should have no problems projecting themselves into the film's main characters. In my opinion (which is completely unfounded as usual), this is why it succeeds so much.
As far as films go, this wasn't the best one I've seen this year. It wasn't as gripping and intense as Life of Pi. It lacked the visual beauty and complexities of Cloud Atlas. In no way did it reach the heights of drama as portrayed by Spielberg's Lincoln.But despite all that, this film still soared. It was the first time that I could honestly say that the film was better than the book. It also marked the second time a film possessed so many parallels to my life that I felt like they accidentally made a story about my past (the first being It's Kind of a Funny Story).
Again, not trying to be self-centered. But really, for those of you who have seen the film or read the book - you know what I'm getting at. The story resonates with us so easily because most of us can understand and probably relate to the majority of the struggles it discusses. To be frank, it's not a rosy affair in terms of content. The plot explores drugs, sexual abuse, suicide, and depression in heavy doses. So should we be worried that we intimately know these things so well?
I think not.
The thing is, I hardly remembered the book. I read the book faster than I think I've ever read one before. Oddly enough, I finished it in the triage center where I was recovering from a suicide attempt. I remember thinking, "Wow, this is rather depressing. Maybe I shouldn't be reading this in light of recent events." Combined with the fact that there was nothing else to do in the triage and the book's overall gripping nature, I couldn't stop reading. Because I read it so fast, I think I missed out a lot on the subtleties of the plot and didn't allow proper time for it to soak in. You know, that moment when you finish a thought-provoking book and you sit back on your pillow and sigh and do nothing but wonder what would have happened in the unpublished chapters?
Yeah, that didn't happen. I think that is why the film hit so close to home with me. I didn't feel a cathartic sense of awareness that usually accompanies the finishing of a long and thoughtful literary work.
This film irks me. It irks me because I know it won't be going away anytime soon. It will stick in my mind and force me to continue living in spite of the harrowing truths that the film sheds light on. In fact, here's a quote from the book that better conveys that thought:
When I was driving home from Cloud Atlas, I was busy explaining the minutiae of the intersecting narratives in the behemoth of the film to my friends. When I was driving home from Life of Pi, my friends and I discussed the beauty of the visuals while I related what wasn't covered in the book. Lastly, when I drove home from Lincoln I remember thinking that it would be outrageous if Daniel Day-Lewis didn't get an award for his role of the president.
I drove home from Perks alone, listening to the Freelance Whales. And while yes, it may only be a few hours ago since I left the theater, I am seeing the images in my head as acutely as if I were still watching the movie. I loathe the idea of sounding so cliche, but as I left Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood and watched the city lights race by, these words felt rather close to what I was feeling:
It may be the most trite and oft-quoted line of Chbosky's work, but for good reason. I hated this film because it made me recall the complexities of a type of love that hurts. I loved this film because I remembered how I used to be filled with hate towards people that I now love. It upset and elated me in turn because I felt like I was watching myself on screen fail time and time again only to figure it out much further down the road.
So I decided to try an experiment. I thought I would examine the film a little bit and list as many of the situations illustrated and see if I could draw parallels to my life when putting them side by side.
I am sort of surprised at the results, which is maybe why this film vexes me so. Then again, maybe you would be too if you tried the same experiment.
SPOILER ALERT: Don't read the following if you haven't read the book/seen the film and intend to do so.
- I am quiet, painfully shy, and have a very hard time making friends in new places.
- I have stood awkwardly against gym walls in the dark while everyone around me danced.
- I have unintentionally let harmful substances dull my mind.
- I have kissed someone knowing they were everything I wanted but everything I couldn't have.
- I have been forced into uncomfortable roles unwillingly because of peer pressure.
- I have kissed someone I've felt nothing for, simply using them for my own selfishness.
- I have done brutally honest things without thinking twice that directly lead to someone's heart being broken.
- I have been separated from people I love because of those actions I took.
- I have had flashbacks/mental images so vivid and terrifying without knowing how to properly shut them out.
- I have picked up damaged relationships as if nothing ever went wrong.
- I have led someone on without meaning to. Sometimes I meant to.
- I have called someone frantically before trying to kill myself because I didn't know what else to do.
- I also hung up on that person because while I didn't want to be rescued I did want someone to know.
- The first time I tried to take my life, I used a knife.
- Therapy, recovery, hospitalization because of mental reasons - done it all.
Now I know most of these are very vague and not very unique, but that's the bothersome thing. I think because of the overall messy task that is growing up, most of these we are quite well acquainted with and I suspect that it is against our will. But these truths and experiences don't determine us or who we are. Indeed, quite the opposite:
I have nothing to say that Chbosky hasn't said. I just wanted to know that what I felt was real and that consequently, many of you have also felt it. Seeing it acted out in front of you is quite a surreal experience and one that gives me a perspective that I am still trying to figure out whether or not I appreciate. Either way, it has been a while since a film has moved me in such a poignant and beautiful way.
I guess I'm just relieved that such grandiose stories can be written about people widely considered to be below average. There's a beauty in not sticking out.
UPDATES & SUCH
I finished reading The Hobbit and I have started a novel called The Night Circus. I'm only about 30 pages into it but the plot is so dark and interesting that I can't help but wanting to finish it immediately. Check it out here.
I am listening to Christmas music! I know, there are people that hate that - but I'm not listening to that type of Christmas music. I'm listening to this kind:
Lastly, it being Saturday, I am mentally ready for the Bengals to murder the Chargers tomorrow and extend their four-game win streak, resulting in a fourth consecutive week that my T.J. Houshmandzadeh jersey rests on the mantelpiece of the Brown House. Yes, I'm that dedicated.