“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a coming-of-age story set in the early 1990s, written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, and based upon his book of the same name.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a freshman in high school with no friends. He’s an aspiring writer who has had some psychological troubles in his life, and he narrates the film. He’s humble and hopeful and trying to keep his spirits up. Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) are seniors and selfmade hipsters who adopt Charlie into their circle.
Charlie’s utter innocence, sincerity and sweetness make him charming and likeable. But psychological flashbacks plague him, and although he’s falling in love with Sam, she already has a boyfriend. Along with the other usual travails of teenage life, the center just isn’t holding for Charlie. Something is terribly wrong.
These three friends are caring and kind, and life hasn’t been easy for any of them, no matter how confident and self-possessed they first appear to be. Sam has been used. A lot. Patrick is gay, and as accepting of him as almost everyone around him is, the people he most wants to accept him do not.
Sex is not the be-all and end-all of “Wallflower.” Compared to most teen films, “Wallflower” is not oversexualized, even at moments when it feels like it’s going to be. However, one oversexualization is the characters’ obsession with the “Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
It becomes clear that as these blossoming young people — who are so earnest about doing right by each other in so many other ways — haven’t a clue about the body and sex, no matter how “experienced” they are or aren’t.
As in real life, today’s fragmentation and separation of the person from the body and sex is so profound that the conclusion seems to be: Sex is just something you need to do, get out of the way and then push it to the back and keep it simmering there in order to get on with the things in a relationship that “really matter.”
We cannot be afraid to present theology of the body to young people who desperately need it. They’re up for the challenge. And the beauty.
This film should be watched to see how our young people are hurting. Young people carry heavy burdens at early ages. That’s not reserved just for adults.
Burns is a Daughter of St. Paul who ministers in Chicago.