MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Lionsgate Films
Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson
The years in high school are filled with drama, laughter and tears for most youth but the friends in The Perks of Being a Wallflower have more than their share of hard times.“My life is officially an After School Special”, 17-year-old Patrick (Ezra Miller) says, referring to the afternoon programs on ABC from the 70s and 80s that focused on the controversial topics and troubled times of American teenagers. Patrick and his stepsister Sam (Watson) befriend Charlie (Lerman), a new freshman who has spent a summer away from home following a personal tragedy. Charlie is introverted and shy. He is also an aspiring writer who journals regularly. Charlie enjoys the attention of Patrick, Sam and their circle of nonconformist friends. As Sam says to Charlie: “Welcome to the Island of Misfit Toys,”
This is the first feature film from writer-director Stephen Chbosky, based on his classic 1999 Young Adult novel. While no date is given, the film is set in 1991, before the Internet and iPods, when friends made mix tapes of songs to trade with one another, you were teased for bring Trapper Keepers to school, and The Catcher in the Rye was still considered a daring book. Like many teenage movies, parents are mostly benign and often absent, giving the youth plenty of time to party and struggle with self-identity and sexuality.
I really liked the characters in this film and found it easy to empathize with their struggles. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is well cast and nicely directed. If your youth have read the book, they won’t be disappointed.
Since the movie stars Emma Watson (from the Harry Potter films) and Logan Lerman (from the Percy Jackson movie), there will be many middle school youth who will want to see this movie. The PG-13 rating is problematic; the themes of the film are more appropriate for High School youth. Take the time to watch this film ahead of time before deciding to let your kids watch it. If possible, watch the movie as well and then take time to listen to what your youth are saying about it.
One of the problems that I had with the script was the implication that most youth who choose to stand out from the crowd are damaged goods. It’s possible to be original, witty and offbeat without engaging in so many at risk activities. But the church needs to be in the business of caring for all persons, including those who struggle, so I applaud the compassion of this film.
I was often reminded of John Hughes’ 1985 film The Breakfast Club (another good film) and how it was embraced by youth at that time. While we might wish that there was a Christian film that could touch the hearts of youth, if we can the time to think about everyone’s need of acceptance and identity, then this film might have a few perks for us, too.
Three halos: A compassionate look at troubled teenagers trying to make sense out of their lives while caring for each other.
Three pitchforks: For any number of youth problems, including (but not limited to) bullying, homosexuality, sexual activity, tobacco, suicide, alcohol and drug use, violence and sexual abuse.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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