Yesterday, I saw a movie called The Perks of Being a Wallflower. In typical fashion, I had dragged my heels on seeing it in theaters, because I’m often lazy about that. And it had been on my Netflix queue for a while, but I’d sort of avoided it, because even though I’d heard it was good, I still wasn’t that interested. It actually accidentally ended up on the top of my queue, and then in my mailbox, because I wasn’t paying attention. And then it sat on my shelf for a while as I avoided watching it. Because, you know, it’s a movie about some awkward teens in high school, and, well, nothing much happens, so I’d rather watch Suits.
But then I felt guilty about it sitting on my shelf, because I never like to do that for too long. So I told myself I had to watch it or send it back unwatched, and I hate that even more, so I started watching it. And then I was riveted. And then I was moved. And then I fell in love.
It’s not merely that it was about “ordinary” things, because it’s not. Sideways was about “ordinary” things, which is why I didn’t like it. I’m rarely into movies like that, because they feel so “ordinary,” and the people so “average,” that I’d rather walk outside and talk to my neighbors. (And yes, I get that Alexander Payne is a genius and an auteur and all that jazz, but it’s how I feel about movies like that, movies that focus on the mundane and the miniscule. I get bored.)
The thing about Wallflower is that it’s not about “ordinary” things. I mean, it is in the sense that it’s not about bank robberies or zombies or being lost in outer space. But in every other sense, the movie manages to capture the essence of who we are, or who we once were – and by all that, I guess what I’m actually saying is the essence of who I often feel like I am, those moments that make up life and living, and those moments are captured in ways that real life can never capture, because real life is all fleeting and ephemeral, so to capture these moments in a movie (and in a book) is extraordinary and riveting and worthy of note.
“Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.”
“I am both happy and sad at the same time, and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
“It was the kind of kiss that made me know that I was never so happy in my whole life.”
“So, I guess we are who we are for alot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. But even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.”
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I’m not sure how it’s possible that Stephen Chbosky has only written one book, because I know that if I had that kind of ability to be so transparently honest, so achingly precise, I’d never stop writing. People wouldn’t let me.
Like many writers, I understand the world through words. I process my experiences by writing about them, and I am worshipfully respectful of people who can capture my experiences, my feelings, my inarticulated emotions with their own words, and, in so doing, make me understand my own life and my own mind. Writers who make me feel less alone. Writers who make me feel like I’m not the only crazy one.
Charlie: “Do you think if people knew how crazy you really were, no one would ever talk to you?”
Me: “Yes. All the time.”
If you have not yet seen The Perks of Being a Wallflower, do it. Immediately.
The acting is extraordinary. The direction impeccable. And the words…perfect.