When you're in high school it feels like the whole world is against you. In writer/director Stephen Chbosky's high school-set The Perks of Being a Wallflower the whole world may actually be against Charlie (Logan Lerman) whose freshman year of high school should be listed in the dictionary under "Murphy's Law." Plagued by memories of two significant deaths as well as general social anxiety Charlie takes a passive approach to ninth grade. A few days of general bullying later he falls into a friendship with two misfit seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who teach him how to live life without fear. Perks starts off with a disadvantage: introverts aren't terribly engaging but Chbosky surrounds Charlie with a vivid cast of characters who help him blossom and inject the coming-of-age tale with a necessary energy.
Set in a timeless version of the '90s Charlie's world is full of handwritten journals mixtapes and a just-tolerable amount of tweed. He writes letters to a nameless recipient as a way of venting a preventative measure to keep the teen from repeating a vague incident that previously left him hospitalized. The drab background of Pittsburgh fits perfectly with Charlie's blank existence. And when he finally comes to life as part of Patrick and Sam's off-beat clique so does the city. Like the archaic vinyl records Sam lusters over (The Smiths of course!) Chbosky visualizes Charlie's journey through the underbelly of suburban Pennsylvania with a raw emotion blooming lights and film grit at every turn. Michael Brook's score and an adeptly curated soundtrack accompanies the episodic affair which centers on Charlie's search for a song he hears during the most important moment of his life.
The charm that keeps The Perks of Being a Wallflower from collapsing under its own super seriousness come from Chbosky's perfectly cast ensemble. Lerman has a thankless job playing Charlie; often constrained to a half-smile and shy shrug Lerman is never allowed to grapple with Charlie's greatest fears and problems until (too) late in the film. Watson nails the spunky object-of-everyone's-affection but she's outshined by Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth another rebellious friend in the pack who takes a liking to Charlie. The real star turn is Miller riding high from We Need to Talk About Kevin and taking a complete 180 with Patrick a rambunctious wiseass who struggles to have an openly gay relationship with the football captain but covers his pain with humor. A scene of confrontation — at where else the cafeteria — is one of the best scenes of the year.
Chbosky adapted Perks of Being a Wallflower from his own book and the movie feels stifled by a looming structure. But it nails the emotional beats — there is no obvious path to surviving high school. It's messy shocking and occasionally beautiful. That about sums up Perks.
I understand that television is a business and businesses are designed (at least in our capitalistic economy model, woo! Econ 101!) to make money. The only way for a network, station or channel to make money is if it's shows draw enough viewers to warrant the advertisers who pay the bills. I get that, I really do. And I understand that if a show doesn’t bring in the numbers it should then it gets axed in order to make room for something that a more people will watch. The ‘art’ of television is supposed to balance the business side and if the commercial aspect doesn’t hold its own amongst the creative side, no matter how good a show might be, it'll gets canned.
And that really sucks a big one.
Lone Star was a great show. Or rather, it could have been a great show. Actually, it is a great show and it showed fantastic promise but it just didn't perform well. Only two episodes were aired before Fox pulled the plug. The first episode drew a dismal 4.1 million people and that fell to an even more miserable 3.2 million by week two. That wasn’t what the network wanted, so they took it off the air.
This show is one that is better than it sounds. James Wolk is a con man leading three lives. One life is a suburban guy living with his hot blond girlfriend. The second is a rising star in a Texas oil company married to the boss’ hot brunette daughter. The third is the ‘real’ life where he is running a con against everyone with his father. Also, Jon Voight shows up as the oil boss.
The writing was sharp. The acting was fantastic. I mean, it’s kind of difficult to pull off a sympathetic character who’s whole M.O. is lying to the people he cares about and yet, I was rooting for the guy from the beginning. Set in the heart of Texas, the muted colors of the land and the drab palette of the buildings and people give the show a distinct feel against the bright flashing lights of other network shows.
And that’s where the problem lies. This show doesn’t belong on a network; there was just no way it could compete against seasoned dramas. The numbers it pulled would be a hit on cable. Of course, it wouldn’t have drawn those numbers right off the bat on cable, but it would have at least been given a fair chance to shine. Maybe a cable channel will pick it up and we can at least see how the first season would have ended.
But alas, that is all but hope. Not much can be done at this point. All we can do is learn from our mistakes. We need to watch good shows to keep them on the air and not waste our time with drivel. Celebrate that Lone Star at least got the chance to air and we’ll know better next time. Rest in peace Lone Star, have fun with Party Down and all the other shows that were prematurely knocked off.
Source: Hollywood Reporter