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Recommendations to watch a movie don’t always deliver on their promises, but I received enough to take a chance and watch this. It was a quiet Sunday night and being as it was only 1 hour and 45 minutes meant it went quickly and enjoyably. Amazingly enough the story is so well developed and everything gets explained in such a short amount of time. The cast isn’t exceptionally famous – Emma Watson and Dylan McDermot lead in that department, but the support cast were amazing and contributed towards the success of the film.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a shy teenager who is nervous about becoming a freshman in high school. He is so shy that he the only person he talks to on his first day is his English teacher Mr Anderson (Paul Rudd), who immediately notices his potential in the subject.
Charlie eventually makes friends with two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller). They become friends when they take him to a diner and Charlie even manages enough courage to join them on the dance floor at a school dance. At the house party afterwards, Charlie smokes weed and then tells Sam that his best friend committed suicide the previous year. It is one of the many sad things that surround Charlie and Sam and Patrick introduces him to their misfit friends.
Patrick, who is gay, tells Charlie about his relationship with Brad (Johnny Simmons), a popular and supposedly straight athlete. Charlie agrees to keep it quiet because Brad is terrified of his own homophobic father finding out. Charlie also starts helping Sam with preparations for retaking her SAT exams so that she can become a student at Pennsylvania State University. Sam kisses Charlie one night even though she plans to date someone else, and tells Charlie that she was molested as a little girl and also about how troubled her life was before she changed herself.
Charlie starts to date Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) for a bit but eventually her overbearing nature leads to a breakup that Charlie handles extremely poorly. All his friends are furious with him for kissing Sam in a game of Truth or Dare (he had to kiss the prettiest girl in the room) and afterwards Patrick tells him it might be better if he steered clear of them for a bit.
Charlie’s condition worsens and he keeps having flashbacks to the car crash that killed his favorite aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskev).
Brad’s father finds out that he is gay when he catches Brad and Patrick having sex. He beats Brad as predicted and Patrick and Brad breaks up because of him. In the school cafeteria there is an altercation and Brad refuses to stand up against his friends to protect Patrick. Patrick hits him after Brad calls him a faggot, and Brad’s friends immediately start beating him up. Charlie comes to his rescue and saves Patrick, but can’t remember how he beat so many boys that were all larger than him. Afterwards he is reunited with his friends.
Sam finds out that she has been accepted into University and that she needs to leave immediately. She and Charlie kisses and when she touches his leg he immediately moves away because it triggers childhood memories.
The following day Charlie keeps having flashbacks of his aunt and calls his sister. He tells her that it is his fault his aunt died and she immediately notices that Charlie is suicidal. She calls the police and Charlie is taken to a mental healthcare facility where he starts recovering. His doctor finally gets him to tell that his aunt molested him as a child, and when his parents find out they are heartbroken. He is eventually able to go home, and when his friends return for vacation he and Sam kisses again.
Perks is a beautiful, beautiful movie. It has been a while since I’ve seen a movie of this quality. It manages to address so many issues in society: depression, sexuality, molestation, and guilt and peer pressure. It reminded me to be kinder towards teenagers – not only do they have all these issues to deal with but they are also locked up with another 1000 bunch of walking hormones for eight hours a day.
Charlie was such a sad and powerful character. As more of his past comes known your heart just continues to break for him. Eventually when I found out what really happened to him I was so angry and sad.
Emma Watson, post Hermoine Granger, is entertaining to watch. From the days of the Philosopher’s Stone she has developed exponential acting abilities, and I would be the first to say that her previous franchise didn’t use it correctly. She is sweet as Sam, a nice girl who has had rough patches in her life. As an actress Emma should stick with these quirky, intelligent roles, it really suits her.
This is definitely the best coming of age film I’ve seen ever and I highly recommend it. It is a good enough movie for older people to watch even though the movie is about teenagers.