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Entries in Logan Lerman (2)

Friday
Sep282012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

At first glance, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is no different than your typical angsty teenager movie. It features a cast of wacky kids who don’t really fit in with any particular clique, but find common ground in their differences—there’s the gay one, the unconventionally pretty one, the stoner, the goth, the shy one and more—but the film isn’t your run-of-the-mill teenager movie. It neither romanticizes nor demonizes the teenage years, but instead looks at them as what they are: a learning experience where children become adults and begin to discover themselves, find happiness and learn what’s truly important in life. The Perks of Being a Wallflower knows what it’s like to be a teenager, from the highs to the lows to everything in between, and it handles all of it delicately and deliberately. It’s one of the best of the year.

The film begins with Charlie (Logan Lerman), a friendless teenage boy who is entering high school for the first time. He’s a bright and loving kid, but has never found anyone outside of his family that is willing to accept him (as he says early on, he’s both happy and sad, wishing only to make a friend). However, he soon meets a senior named Patrick (Ezra Miller) who, for whatever reason, is stuck taking the freshman shop class. From there, he meets Patrick’s step sister, Sam (Emma Watson), along with a cast of eclectic characters who don’t care who he was or where he’s been. They just know that he’s a nice person and they instantly accept him into their group.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower could have gone incredibly wrong, but it somehow manages to do nearly everything right. The main character is lonely and friendless, but he’s not pathetic. The characters are archetypal, but they nevertheless feel real. The film is about teenage angst, but it’s never annoying. Instead, it’s a thoughtful study on what it’s like to be a teenager and all but those who coasted through their teenage years without a problem will be able to relate to it. The movie is also prophetic, but it’s never preachy. It expresses the thoughts of a teenager to beautiful effect, shown best in one scene when Charlie asks his English teacher, played wonderfully by Paul Rudd, why some wonderful people date bad people. His response is that we accept the love we think we deserve. Charlie responds, asking how someone could let that person know they deserve better, to which his teacher replies that you can’t really. You can only try. Anyone who has ever watched as their crush dated someone not good enough for them, someone who abused them or took them for granted, will find these scenes incredibly moving.

Here’s a film that knows how hard it can be for some people to make friends and how lucky we are to have them. It stresses their importance, in the way they shape our lives, influence our opinions and make us stronger. For example, Charlie never takes his newfound friends for granted. He understands his good fortune in finally finding them and will do anything to make them happy. His status as an outcast has, in a way, made him a stronger, better person than most will ever be. He never looks at the gay guy and sees him as a lesser person or the goth girl and thinks of her as weird. His timidity has nurtured a kindness in him that allows him to see past such trivial matters and into the real person underneath. He’s a wonderful character, one that is easy to root for, and the actor portraying him puts on a terrific show.

With that said, The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn’t perfect. It never really establishes a true place and time—it feels like it takes place in modern day, but the characters listen to records instead of CDs and write on typewriters instead of computers—some of the dialogue is frustratingly hipster, (which is, to be fair, indicative of many indie films) and one plot thread involving Charlie’s sister, Candace (Nina Dobrev), and her abusive boyfriend is never followed through, but despite its occasional stumble in these relatively minor areas, it succeeds where it needs to. Some of the darker plot turns are difficult to accept not because they’re out of place or unnecessary, but rather because the characters are so likable, you don’t want to see anything bad happen to them. The story and characters are relatable too, guaranteeing many of the film’s viewers will know what it’s like to feel the way they do. But the film’s intent isn’t to sadden or bring back memories from your teenage years you wish you could forget. It instead leaves you in a perpetual state of happiness, with a love and appreciation for those who love and appreciate you back, and with hope for every struggling kid who may be going through similar experiences at this very moment. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is for, but not limited to, them and it takes power away from unnecessary high school labels. When viewed from a different perspective, words like “popular” and “wallflower” take on a completely different meaning.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower receives 4.5/5

Sunday
Feb142010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I suppose we can thank good 'ol Harry for this. Due to the success of the Harry Potter franchise, we now have a countless number of books being adapted to the big screen in an effort to start a lucrative series. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Chronicles of Narnia, Cirque du Freak, all hope to grab that cash from you. While not all were successful, namely the latter one, all shared that same trait. Now we have a newcomer hoping to wedge its way into the fold in the form of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Despite a few problems, it largely succeeds and proves itself as a fun, entertaining fantasy adventure that will tide fans over until the next Potter film.

Logan Lerman plays the title character, a teenager who is about to find out that his entire life is a lot more complicated than he thinks. His father is actually Poseidon, god of the sea, played by Kevin McKidd. Years ago, he came onto land, fell in love with his mother, played by Catherine Keener, and they had him as their child. Now, Poseidon's brother Zeus, god of thunder, played by Sean Bean, has accused Percy of stealing his thunderbolt. He has 14 days to return it or the gods go to war, destroying the heavens and the earth. As a result, Percy is taken to a camp exclusively for demi-gods, kids who are half human and half god, to train. Once he arrives, however, he watches his mother get abducted by Hades, god of the underworld (or more precisely, the Devil). He is played wonderfully by Steve Coogan. So Percy decides that he must get his mother back and treks across America with Annabeth, played by Alexandra Daddario, and his protector Grover, played by Brandon T. Jackson, in search of three pearls that will grant them entry and exit to the underworld.

Phew. You wouldn't think so given the PG rating and marketing towards kids, but this film has a lot going on. On their journey, the kids meet Medusa, battle a 10 headed dragon, and travel down into Hell to confront Hades. I felt like I was watching an epic for the ages, an exciting, scary, violent romp through the best parts of Greek mythology. The funny thing is that despite the kid-centric commercials, this thing is more for adults and teenagers. It features decapitations, a drug induced happiness that is played as cool and the aforementioned descent into Hell. Top onto that the intense battles with all sorts of mythical creatures and you have a film that is actually quite creepy. This thing's scarier than The Wolfman.

Although comparisons are unavoidable, especially given that this director helmed The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, Percy Jackson differs from Harry Potter in these respects. The Harry Potter films are more polished, but Percy Jackson is more fun. This doesn't waste its time in endless set-up with zero payoff (much like the fifth Potter). It's more of a droll, white knuckle action fantasy that moves at a brisk pace towards its conclusion. If you're looking for a better film, go with Potter, but if you're looking for something you can put on and enjoy at any time, Percy Jackson is your best bet.

Still, the film is nowhere near perfect and actually stumbles the most when it tries to mix that drollery with a serious story. The humor rarely works and feels out of place when one-liners are thrown out in the heat of battle. Its tone gets mixed so frequently that I'm not sure one is ever established. For instance, when they first arrive in Hell, they see thousands of tortured souls below them. The visual is haunting. Then they meet the Devil and his, shall we say, mistress, played by Rosario Dawson, and it turns lighthearted with an eerie sexual tension bubbling beneath the surface. The movie would have been helping itself had it gone the full scary route rather than attempting to juggle the two.

Then you have the ineffective side stories about Percy growing up without his father and the kindling romance between him and Annabeth. You see, Percy has been bitter his whole life about his father running out on him and his mother. He was only 7 months old when it happened, so he never even got to meet him and now he's stuck with his nasty stepfather who treats his mom like a piece of meat. The ending tries to resolve these daddy issues and the cheese is stacked up high. The romantic chemistry between him and Annabeth was missing, rendering that moot as well.

If you're looking at the film from an analytical point of view, this is a great story told haphazardly, but if you're looking at it through a normal citizen's eyes, this is great fun. It won't ever reach the success of Harry Potter, but here's hoping it makes enough money to warrant a sequel. Percy Jackson deserves at least that.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief receives 3.5/5