Stories are about transitions. Nobody wants to watch a film about a kind car salesman who remains a car salesman, sells some cars, and goes home at the end of the day to his family, an unchanged man. A film about a kind car salesman who suddenly gets roped into smuggling drugs across the border to save his wife and kids, and ends up the kingpin of a drug empire, on the other hand, will garner interest. This quality of storytelling is a key element regarding the popularity of coming of age tales; no transition is more formative and universal than that of a child maturing into an adult. Stephen Chbosky is one director and author who managed to capture this genre impeccably in his novel-based film, “Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Overall, the film captures that poignant sense of being alive and young in specific exhilarating settings which my good friend, the esteemed Zach Barshevsky, has coined “wallflower moments.”
A wallflower moment is when you feel most alive, in the company of a friend, united by some unconventional activity probably late at night, and accompanied by either the perfect song, or ringing silence. As this moment occurs, you might experience an unerring certainty that this memory will stay with you when others fade, that regardless of how your life changes and progresses, the two of you will always share this shining instant. You’re probably smiling, but maybe not, maybe this moment is one of contemplation, a rare glimpse of clarity. In the film, Logan Lerman’s character, Charlie, is sitting in a truck with his friends Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), the three of them crammed in front and cruising down the highway at night. David Bowie’s “Heroes” plays on the radio, and Sam climbs into the bed of the truck, standing up and facing the road ahead, her arms stretched wide and moving gracefully like wings as the music blares and the lights of the tunnel flash by. Charlie looks back at her, awestruck by her beauty in this moment, and remarks to Patrick with wonder; “I feel infinite." This line is an abbreviated version of the quote from Chbosky’s novel as well as the end of the film; “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite,” and either way, we know how Charlie feels.
Coming of age is an ongoing process -- some people are forced to mature early, and others remain childlike far into their adult years, but to me the best definition is beginning to realize that things won’t always be OK, and coming to terms with that. When you grow up, people begin to tell you the whole story (which isn’t always pretty), and you realize that the good and bad guys from your childhood stories were never so black and white. You also realize that the lows in life can be what make the highs feel transcendent, and how to be yourself while allowing yourself to need others. If we used wallflower moments to describe the entirety of this transition, there would be good moments such as listening to records as loud as possible in a dorm room dimly illuminated by Christmas lights, but also a room full of people trying to comfort someone who can’t stop crying. Sitting on a roof. Staying up until 4 A.M. because you can’t say goodnight and part ways. Listening to songs on the beach at midnight drowned out by the sounds of the ocean. Driving a friend to the hospital. I’ve mimicked the said movie scene, standing up through a sunroof and feeling suspended in time as the wind rushes by, whipping away the music we have turned all the way up. If I want one thing from life, it’s to keep experiencing moments like these.
Recommended song: "Cannonball" by George Watsky