Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Glamor of Being in the Psychiatric Unit

Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those movies that gets under your skin without really working too hard.  It does a sort of slow, sad, hallway walk into your soul.  Based on his novel from a decade or so ago, the movie lovingly cannibalizes John-Hughes movies for its textures and rhythms, and somehow deepens those moments through a misty-eyed adherence to the importance of nostalgia.  It makes being in a psyche unit feel like going to Sundance and having hot chocolate with a bunch of other sad kid actors.  Glamorizing sadness and depression is an old movie staple, but Chbosky gets it so right you feel a sort of gorgeous depression slowly seep into your consciousness as you watch the movie.  There's something about lead actor Logan Lerman's wide-open but still a little closed-up face that allows us to feel that self-involvement is an artform, and Emma Watson and the ecstatic Ezra Miller playing Lerman's Island-of-Lost-Toys sidekicks gives the movie's atmosphere a stylish, kinky kick.  Whoever lit this movie must know how to write extremely effective love-letters, because the lighting in every scene has an unbearable lightness of being to it; you feel yourself aching to ache in those suburban houses these kids live in, and in the penultimate scene, the three of them riding through a tunnel blasting David Bowie's "Heroes," you truly want to become a part of their miserable little clique.  Perks is a masterpiece of sad-sack outsiderness, celebrating those feelings you often just have to shrug off in order to get things done.  This movie wallows in beautiful self-pity, and that somehow is its genius.