Monday, February 18, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I know. I promised to write about what therapists do when they get bored, but therapists are all different and handle boredom differently. The work, if we're busy, is never boring, not if we take it seriously. But when we're tired, perhaps on the verge of burn out, everything can seem ho hum. 

Knowing this, some of us (me) schedule get-aways and don't tell anyone much about them.  It is obvious to people who know me this is no cruise. We are talking an airplane, at least one night in a good hotel, two movies. The movies are yet another way to get away, kick it up, inflate, punctuate. Make it different.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The poster to the right hawks the screenplay/novel now film by Stephen Chbosky, and the acting expertise of Emma (Hermione!) Watson, Logan Lerman, and the unforgettable Ezra Miller. 

I didn’t read the book yet but it is on my list, and the movie, The Perks of being a Wallflower captured me in a good way, but didn't scare me, like Pi. Some of hate being scared.

When you’re a therapist, going to psychological movies is tough-the deep dark secret behind odd behavior in a story is predictable, at least falls within top three considerations-- and we don't want to spend free evenings working out yet another life's sadness. Why work when you don't have to work, when you aren’t technically working?

And in truth, this is a vacay. Visiting children and grandchildren isn’t a vacation in the traditional sense, meaning there’s no beach, no rain forest, not even golf. The big joke in my family is that when someone asks, Oh! Do you golf? (Note, there is always an Oh!) FD will say, No, but we do carry a few clubs in the trunk of the car. This from my obsession with driving ranges, as opposed to golf courses. Why would anyone golf on a golf course knowing full well that it will inconvenience others, slow them down?

Enough about that. I don’t know if any of you ever saw the short-lived television show Freaks and Geeks, but I loved that show, all about rebellious teens, good kids, working out their issues growing up. Being different, unpopular, they had each other, and as you know, when you have a friend or two, life is fairly livable. Without that, add up the inevitable traumas of living and you wonder how anyone gets by.

Not everyone does. We just read today that Mindy McCready, a young country singer, killed herself  not long after the father of her children killed himself. (She had been accused of killing her ex-lover in a jealous rage.)  Mindy had been battling her demons (code for depression and/or addiction), but we hear about her decline and surrender to alcohol and prescription meds, and wonder what happened, how did someone who had so much become so marginalized. 

Oh, but I'm on vacation, if only for a few more hours, so back to the show.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is about a high school freshman. Charlie has already spent time in a hospital for depression, we assume, and is hoping to make a friend that first day in September. It is a hope against hope, although his English teacher (perfect as always, Paul Rudd) offers himself for the part and is accepted, with reluctance. We know that Charlie is in some sort of recovery, and that it isn’t a true social phobia, his wallflower-ishness, because he tries really hard to fit in, does things with others, and even has a pretty good time.

At some point FD remarks, There are no parents in this movie. He says this about the same time that I say, I think I hate this movie. It is just too slow for me and the story isn't evolving, and FD is right, there are few people over the age of sixteen, not that this is bad, but it can get boring for a family therapist.


And then! As I am considering walking away, eating, perhaps, things heat up.

There is a breakdown and a psychiatrist, and Joan Cusak makes her appearance in that role, the doctor who is tough, who won't let the patient slither away, return to his head, not without having to explain himself, and you wonder why she is bothering with it, this role, because it is short and not terribly inspiring role, even though she is good at the job and Charlie gets better.

And then you realize that this film is about what you expected it to be about, the trauma of child abuse, and that Joan likely has a vested interest in seeing that JQ Public learns more about childhood sexual abuse, bless her. That is why she takes the role.

And that is why there are no parents in this film, not until the end, not until the secret is out about the aunt and the parents find out about the aunt's role in Charlie's life. Then, only then, do we see these people, the parents, because they are supporting their son, his version of the story, and he becomes well because they believe him, as does everyone else.  Which is the way it has to be, frankly.

Whether or not it is intentional, that Charlie's parents are mere shadows for three-quarters of a film, only the directors know.  The film supposedly deviates quite a bit from the book, and if that is how, then it worked. At least for this therapist, who is back, by the way, ready, once again, to be surprised.



Unknown said...

I gotta say, I didn't see the movie because the book was rather intriguing, and I didn't want to ruin it. That, and the fact that the book brought about some pretty intense memories of my own. You are right, the book was rather predictable (which it sounds as if the movie was) but it was quite well written and as much as it did disturb me, it was worth the read (I think...!) Welcome back - hope you had a good vacay!

therapydoc said...

Thanks Purple. I always like the books better, but had an offer to see this that I couldn't refuse. And it had to be blogworthy, in any case.

Purple Pineapple said...

I was semi-interested in reading this book (and seeing the movie after). I think I'll give it a go and see what it's all about!

LMHC said...

I think the point of the story is that it is told from the perspective of a wallflower (thus parents are somewhat absent). The book is a series of letters written by Charlie, and the movie held relatively true to the plot. It was kind of predictable from a therapist's viewpoint, or anyone who has exposure to someone who has undergone any kind of sexual trauma. That being said, I thought both the book and movie were well done. It deviated a bit from the typical high school social order (jocks versus nerds) depiction and showed more of gray that exists in the real world.

Stephanie said...

I've noticed that you do reviews of films dealing with psychological issues. It would be great if you would check out my web series called "Sessions." Sessions follows the lives of struggling actors who handle their frustrations with a healthy dose of therapy. You can watch episodes here: