Since the end of the year is upon us, I was thinking of compiling a short list of my favorite films of 2012. But I realized that I haven’t actually seen too many films that were completed this year. Most of what I watch is at least 30 years old. I loved Hugo and The Way, which I saw in theaters earlier this year. But they were actually first released in 2011 and 2010 before very delayed arrivals at theaters in Tokyo. With only two days left in the year, I thought I had better squeeze in another film from 2012 and it was either For a Good Time Call.. or The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Set in a suburban high school in the early ’90s, this film adapted by Stephen Chbosky from his own hit novel, draws obvious comparisons with John Hughes’ 80s high school dramas such as The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. While those films always focused on socially awkward teens or kids from the wrong side of the tracks, they did so mainly for for comedic value. Perks, which distances itself from its era by 20 years, takes a much more somber approach. The wallflower of the title is a freshman who is more than awkward. He has serious psychological problems, having survived the death of his favorite aunt and the recent suicide of his only friend. When he bonds two misfit seniors, high school seems bearable for a while. Although Emma Watson, as the girl he develops his first crush on, is the only box office draw in her first major role after Harry Potter, her American accent is inconsistent at best, and she is doesn’t come across on screen as beguiling as the central character sees her. The real star of the show is Ezra Miller as the gay teen Frank, who suffers through a relationship with the schools closeted quarterback who will sleep with him but not acknowledge him in public.
Miller’s performance is wonderful, and the whole film is beautifully, poignantly shot. Joan Cusack is great as the psychiatrist at the mental hospital where Charlie winds up, and it was nice to see special effects master Tom Savini in a rare acting role as a shop teacher. But large chunks of the second act where a bit boring for me, probably because I was in high school at the same time and had many of the same experiences. Listening to The Smiths and Cocteau Twins? Check. Saturday night screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Check. Mixed tapes made and received from girls. Check and check. The trio of misfits take themselves very seriously, as do most high school students. When Charlie saying “at this moment we are infinite,” would be enough to make me roll my eyes, if I hadn’t felt the same way when I was in high school.