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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is the best John Hughes movie he never made

Illustration for article titled The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is the best John Hughes movie he never made

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: The Sundance hit The Spectacular Now has us thinking back on other teen romances.


The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

It took 13 years for Stephen Chbosky’s young-adult novel The Perks Of Being A Wallflower to move from page to screen, which is a bit surprising considering how popular—not to mention universally resonant—it is. Maybe it was the structure: Perks the novel is delivered as a series of letters from a teenager to an unknown “friend” (each starts “Dear friend”), detailing his freshman year of high school. Chbosky himself ended up both adapting the book and directing the film, which was released in late 2012 to muted approval and solid box office. And maybe that’s exactly the reaction it was meant to have, considering how much smarter and more distinctive it is than the average high-school romance.

And really, the romance is just part of a sticky coming-of-age mosaic: There’s no grand love scene, and “happily ever after” is more implied than explicit. (The movie brings main characters Charlie and Sam—played by Logan Lerman and Emma Watson—closer to a relationship than the book does.) Lerman is fantastic at playing withdrawn, and Chbosky’s insights into the teenage condition—the story is at least semi-autobiographical—ring true. Lerman is pulled from his shell by Watson and her stepbrother, played brilliantly by Ezra Miller, and Perks refuses to let their multi-pronged relationship travel in any sort of predictable line. Like any 15-year-old’s life—especially one prone to rages and plagued by ugly formative memories—it feels believably bipolar, with the joys of riding in cars with friends on one side and the absolute devastation of love spurned on the other.

There are messy subplots about Miller’s secret gay relationship and Lerman’s history of abuse, but they all work together with the same harmony that John Hughes’ dramas always did. In fact, it’s essentially impossible to discuss The Perks Of Being A Wallflower without mentioning Hughes: Though Perks feels more true to life than anything Hughes did, both capture the same spirit perfectly. Another common thread: music. The soundtrack to Perks—David Bowie, The Smiths, New Order—is plucked right from the Hughes playbook.

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