The Perks of “Participating”

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last night my lady friends and I went to go see ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ at the Drafthouse for another fantastic pre-screening (hence the onslaught of movie reviewesque posts as of late). When I asked my roommate to join us, she started squealing about how much she loves the book and how it was exactly like her high school life. My roommate doesn’t squeal. Ever. That’s my job. So this was clearly something that left an impact on her teen heart.

The thing about this book/movie is that everyone relates to it in some way and has that, “THIS IS MY LIFE, GET OUT OF MY HEAD,” moment.

Personally, my high school life was really sugar-coated and tame in comparison, all full of high kicks, hot pink and straight As. I’ve spent the last five years catching up on things outside the world of dance and AP classes and it wasn’t until college that I experienced some of the deeper, darker moments of the plot line. Instead of explaining what happens in the story, I just want you to go watch the movie or read the book. And then everything I say below will make sense. Probably.

I cried throughout the entire end of the movie. Pathetic girl style. I spent years rolling my eyes at my mother when she’d tear up during commercials, movies, sad magazine articles, etc., but there I was last night, drying my eyes with a leftover napkin from my chips & queso. It hit a little too close to home in a lot of ways and left me feeling cathartically raw.

A few parallels:

My high school English teacher changed my life and left a lasting impression, just like in the story. She looks nothing like Paul Rudd, but she did give me books she thought I’d like, assign me extra writing projects and push me in the public relations direction. I have a little plastic turtle sitting on my dresser that comes along with me anytime I move to a new place. She gave us this turtle when we were reading The Grapes of Wrath and it has stared down at me through impossible college tests, dance auditions, job interviews, break-ups, you name it, always reminding me to keep my head up.

‘Asleep’ by The Smiths comes up a few times, which validated the fact that this song is significant and really incredible. You know my obsession with this British band and the Brits in general, but I’m sad to say I didn’t discover them until college. When I finally did stumble upon them, I desperately wished I was born earlier in music history and could have seen them live.

Because music is such a giant part of the plot, mix tapes are taken very seriously by the main characters and they put genuine thought and love into choosing each track. Much to the chagrin of my romantic heart, I was too young for mix tapes, but made my fair share of mix CDs, decorating them with permanent marker and hoarding them in my car. I still have one from my childhood best friend, Ryan, and several from old boyfriends. In the end of the story, Hermione (Emma Watson) finds a track they’ve been looking for all year-long. The unabashed joy they experience while finally playing the song again is a feeling that I relish.

On a darker note, Charlie’s character is trapped by horrible mental torture brought on by childhood experiences and only escapes when he’s with his friends. As you are all aware, depression and mental illness are real, painful issues and aren’t always or really ever, solved by ‘happy pills.’ I once fell for someone a lot like Charlie’s character and went on to experience second-hand what happens when someone can’t control what’s happening in their mind. I’m thankful that the movie doesn’t shy away from it, but instead ultimately shows that life does indeed go on.

Even if you weren’t a nerdy English student who listened to The Smiths, this movie will touch you. We’ve watched the boy we like kiss our best friend, we’ve danced like no one was watching “living room routine” style, we’ve fallen for boys (or girls) who make us feel small and who don’t deserve us, we’ve kissed our best guy friend and we’ve felt complete because of a group of friends.

This story inspires me to keep on “participating” and to never settle for someone who doesn’t love the real me – all parts of me.

Trailer: 

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