03 November 2012

The Joys of Community in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

Community is the richest theme in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This theme stuck out for me because there is a scene near the end of the film where Charlie and his family is gathered around the table for dinner. Released from the institution, Charlie is back together with himself and now his family. After all of the preceding trouble, it seems that now he is on stable ground. At that point, he is reunited with Patrick and Sam as they are now in town for a visit from college. We are treated to a re-visitation from a scene earlier in the movie as this theme of community is presented as the conclusion of the film.

This is not the complete treatment of this theme, however. Earlier in the movie, Charlie's disunity with himself and others is the major undercurrent to the unity for which he searches throughout most of the film. Charlie is separated from others due to various forms of inner turmoil. A member of his family has failed him and the remainder of his family with whom he lives is not entirely aware of how he feels. Even his sister's relationship with a boyfriend looks dysfunctional. At school, he is out of step with everyone else and greatly fears this situation. He is counting down the number of days of high school that awaits him, literally. He searches for a chosen community on his first day of school: a peer named Patrick. (Charlie also becomes close to his English teacher, but the age difference as well as mentorship inflects this positively informed relationship quite differently.) He finds another peer - a girl named Sam - at a school football game where he sits with Patrick. Both of these new friends are seniors yet Charlie does not seem to notice the limited amount of time he will have with them.

Charlie's outsider-hood soon becomes apparent to Patrick and Sam. They befriend him and bring him into their circle. A community has chosen Charlie as he has chosen them. The remainder of the film will show the highs and lows of this group friendship. Like a noir hero, however, Charlie's past will not forsake him. Rendered in charming and loving scenes, this past torment is absent for some time. In three separate instances, however, trouble swoops into Charlie's life to render him weaker and weaker. This is why the penultimate sequence of the movie feels so rich. Charlie comes back to himself, makes peace with his family, and is comforted by the ones with whom he has spent so much of the movie. It is a beautiful depiction of situations and feelings that make him whole. He is less isolated, he is less tortured, he is loved. No wonder he feels infinite. His whole life is before him at last.

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