welcome to the island of misfit toys.
Each year a few notable movies come out that directly tackle difficult psychological material, and sometimes Oscar notices. This year, two movies fitting the description have been nominated in multiple categories: “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Master.” A third movie, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” should have accompanied them, and arguably deserves a spot more than either.
“Silver Linings Playbook,” a darkly funny movie about a man suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (played by best actor contender Bradley Cooper) who meets a woman struggling with her own demons (played by best actress contender Jennifer Lawrence), deserves the attention it has received.
“The Master,” about a borderline-personality sociopath (played by best actor contender Joaquin Phoenix) who meets a megalomaniac (played by best supporting actor contender Philip Seymour Hoffman), doesn’t. The first movie is a well put together romantic comedy that effectively takes on its material with class and style. The second is an over-hyped, over-long attempt at dramatizing the rise of a Scientology-esque cult.
“The Master” had big shoes to fill, because everyone expected the director of the masterpiece “There Will be Blood,” Paul Thomas Anderson, to create an equally incredible movie this time out. Instead, “The Master” features big name actors in roles that have no discernible character arcs – they flat line from start to finish.
With moments of appeal peppered throughout a generally boring storyline, “The Master” was average at best. But, with its A-list cast, its notable director, and a marketing budget that was bigger than the GDP of a few small countries, it still got a nod from Oscar.
Meanwhile, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was forgotten, and for this Oscar should be ashamed. Tackling difficult psychological material in the context of a coming-of-age romantic comedy, “Perks” was easily one of the most courageously constructed, emotionally moving films of the year.
Its cast includes less notable but talented actors, including Emma Watson and Logan Lerman, and a rising star director, Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the book and screenplay.
“Perks” accomplished something that few movies in any genre ever do: it drew viewers into a perspective experienced from within the main character, Charlie (played by Logan Lerman)—but did so with subtlety and balance. Nothing about the movie clobbers the viewer’s sensibilities; instead, it captures and keeps attention with small movements that finally amount to a whole that dwarfs the sum of its parts. When the gestalt eventually comes, it is overwhelming.
The difficulty “Perks” faced from the start, and most likely why it’s not at the Oscar party, is wrongheaded marketing. I ignored the movie when it came to theaters in October because it seemed like just another canned teen romance blah blah attempt. Next to the polished positioning of “Silver Linings” and “The Master,” it was barely noticeable. I only watched it on the recommendation of a friend who rented it on DVD, and after one viewing realized I would rather have seen it five times in theaters than sit through “The Master” once.
Poor, and likely poorly funded, marketing can really kill the chances of an otherwise great movie from making it to top tier status. And what Oscar demonstrates every year is that the opposite is also true – big time marketing, when paired with the “right” actors and director, can get you to the show, quality be damned.
One of the marks of a great movie is whether viewers leave the experience of watching it a little different than they were before. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” accomplishes this, and it should have been recognized for it. In an ideal world, it would be nominated in the best adapted screenplay, best director, best actor and probably best actress categories. As it stands, Oscar has deemed it invisible.
I’ve purposely written this article without spoilers of any sort because I want to end with a call to action: find this amazing little movie and watch it.
To Oscar: pity you’re so consistent, you really missed a gem.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Charlie reads a poem (FULL DELETED SCENE - 3:16)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Sam and Charlie kissing fantasy (Blooper)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Sibling rivalry turns to love (FULL DELETED SCENE - 4:16
The Perks of Being a Wallflower deleted scene: Sibling rivalry turns into love.