Movies about teenage misfits almost never get it right. Why? Because the characters in question rarely look or act like actual teenage misfits. They’re always too polished, too fresh-faced, too pretty. In fact, such films are almost insulting to former real-life teenage misfits such as myself, because their depiction of the torment suffered by nerds and outcasts rings so false to those who have actually gone through it.
And now we have “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” writer/director Stephen Chbosky’s own adaptation of his 1999 coming-of-age novel that received quite a bit of attention for its melding of young-adult literature with themes of drug use, homosexuality and teenage suicide. Given those hard-to-sell elements, it’s perhaps not surprising that the film’s first trailer (embedded above) gives no real indication of just how dark the story gets.
But while I understand the business considerations behind such a decision, I’m not sure it’s the right one. As presented, the film looks too subdued to pull in the typical teen audience and too unoriginal to appeal to those looking for a high-school flick that actually has something fresh and authentic to say about the painful experience of being an adolescent. By towing the line too carefully, Summit risks alienating both segments of their prospective audience.
In a nutshell, the plot of the novel focuses on Charlie, the “wallflower” of the title who befriends two free-wheeling seniors at his new high school and by the end comes to confront some uncomfortable truths about his own past. Of course the trailer makes the entire thing look like a rather subdued look at the life of a smart young man who suffers torment at the hands of bullies and meets a pretty girl whom he pines after.
To be honest, I haven’t read Chbosky’s novel, so perhaps this adaptation will hold more appeal for one of the book’s many fans. As for myself, watching yet another movie about precocious misfit teens with issues (and, yes, great hair and perfect skin) doesn’t hold all that much appeal. As presented, it comes off as just another trifling teen dramedy about a group of aesthetically-pleasing teen outcasts who enjoy heckling football jocks from the stands and talking about how alone they feel. Guess what? I’ve seen that movie, like, a million times – and it sucks.
So knowing what I know about the actual plot, will I give “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” a chance when it hits theaters? Sure – at least if I hear good things. But does the trailer itself sell me on the movie? No, I can’t say that it does.
Trailer grade: C. After watching, be sure and rate it for yourself at top left (and check out a few new pics from the film in the gallery below).
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“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” hits theaters on September 14.