Another review requested by S. It’s becoming increasingly evident that I am having a good time working through the list she requested/recommended. More than ever, I feel like all hope is not lost with my review writing and that someone, somewhere respects what I do, and that is often enough to keep me going. That she addresses herself as “my biggest fan” not only humbles me a great deal any more but only adds the icing to the cake of the wonderful movies suggested. Lest we forget, words and movies are the best way to carve a niche in my heart.
CAUTION: Implied spoilers and a personal rant embedded somewhere in the middle.
Teenage Dirtbag is a small-budget indie movie directed, scripted by Regina Crosby based on somewhat true events. I looked up background details on her and the lead cast but I’ve decided not to bore you with the details because well, my goodness, can I not wait to write about this movie already.
If you’re like me and not quick to discount a book, movie or any other form of media by simply its name or in this case, IMDB description then you’re in for a huge delight. Teenage Dirtbag is way more than what meets the eye in the first few minutes. I say this because I watched this movie thinking I knew exactly what I was in for. I’ve been doing that lately. I’ve been afraid to find triggers in movies and books that remind me of a life I had. A life I may no longer have any access to. It’s difficult to be that one person society is expecting you to be every single day. Unbearable when you’ve agreed to be that way and have no way of going back. And this is what Amber’s point of conflict is. Let’s start from scratch now, shall we?
Teenage Dirtbag is a non-linear film surrounding the high school prim and proper cheerleader, intelligent, pretty to a point of unnecessary perfection girl named Amber and the typical high school delinquent, Thayer. The movie starts off with a present day scenario where Amber is leading her days rather incoherently as she carries inside her a tiny human being. Flashback to high school. Think back to that one person you met in high school who was so thoroughly exhausting, annoying and downright difficult to avoid as much as you tried, especially if you tried. That one person of the opposite sex that tried their level hardest to get your attention and as exasperating as it was, you secretly enjoyed it. I know I did.
Thayer is a deeply troubled boy trying to put on a brave-enough-to-eat-absolutely-anything obnoxious front at school while he can barely stand up to his abusive father back at home. Amber, on the other hand, excels at all the tiny and big accomplishments a girl can perform well at in high school but is neglected by her family and yearns for their appreciation. It’s hard to say that this part, right here, isn’t already sounding like the usual good girl meets bad boy cliché. But believe me when I say it’s hardly like that.
So, Amber is obviously the only person indifferent and quite unamused by Thayer’s ridiculous, cringe-worthy shenanigans that usually squeeze out reactions from everyone else. Amber, in the first person narrative describes how in retrospect all of her actions and the lack thereof, affected Thayer deeply and led from one thing to the other. It’s hard to tell what Amber feels about everything that happened back when they were young and free, whether, in hindsight she wishes she had behaved differently. But that’s me getting ahead of myself. Anyway coming back, Amber decides early on that Thayer is unworthy of her attention. She makes this so apparent at times, you have to wonder whether that really helps anyone at all. What this does is builds an air of mystery around her and attracts Thayer towards her, mostly subconsciously at the start and later, quite intensely.
As much as Amber believes that her misfortune of always being in such close proximity with Thayer is only because of the alphabetical ordering of their surnames, they end up together in a Creative Writing class. Their interactions through poetry and prose and the underlying hints passed on through verse draws them together in ways otherwise unimaginable. You see them forging a bond that is strained from the very start. Amber plays along with this and chooses to communicate with Thayer of her own volition when people aren’t paying attention. So they start passing notes during study hour. As they start developing a half-decent relationship with each other, they start to realize that both of them have issues at home that have some degree of commonality. Here’s my bone to pick with the story, Thayer and Amber were attracted to each other regardless of this angle to the plot. Anyway, I’m not one to bicker about such things too much and let me take this sour spot to diverge into parallels I love drawing between the reel life and my real life.
High school where I grew up was nothing like the one Thayer and Amber studied at or like any other high schools depicted in Western cultures. Hell, we don’t even call it “high school” per se. However, people – as I’ve been picking up on so acutely over the past few months are more or less the same in all parts of the world. So, there was a person exactly like Thayer in my life. There were two whole years that I look back on and ponder about but never speak out loud. This boy had an interest in me that aggravated me very much at the start. Recovering from a terrible break-up at the time, the last thing I needed was excessive attention and a need to overshare and thereby get really intimate with another. Fortunately, this boy for me was just a simple “no” and all of his playful (I suppose?) advances were dismissed by me and termed “hopelessly cheesy”. Onlookers laughed at us pulling off the girl-boy best friend stance and to a great extent we nervously laughed with them, too. Knowing that we each had very different personal lives but were more or less stuck in the same classroom for hours on end, we grew comfortable to a point that any kind of lack of attention from the other, resulted in a huge fight and another fact that we never admitted – jealousy. Days caught up to weeks and months and years. Time changed. We moved on with our lives. I put my foot down, asked for a choice that had me or someone else and said hurtful things and when this boy demanded I say something, anything, just like Amber, I said nothing at all. And just like Amber, in present time, I have no way of knowing how he is. I have ruthlessly chopped all means of contact and all I can do now, is wonder.
Coming back, there are scenes in the movie that give me goosebumps and I can see how they have actually been drawn from the writer and director’s personal experiences. Teenage love can be made to look all too fine and perfect on the big screen and many of these moments between Thayer and Amber are handled very carefully to bring forth more than just what meets the eye. The Creative Writing class professor brings to his character such genuineness and clarity that it’s hard not to feel you’re actually in that class with everybody else. Even that character was not stereotyped completely or overplayed. Thayer and Amber’s back and forth with their prose and poetry do not go unnoticed by him. He does not intervene in matters that he clearly has a good grasp about but has no right to interfere.
As the movie comes to its last lap, I had to take a deep breath and the gooey corners of my heart held on tight hoping against hopes that things work out for Thayer and Amber in the past. Despite knowing present day Amber’s condition. I guess, I was hoping for some kind of redemption from her, that her reason for never giving Thayer the time of day had only to do with society’s created norms. Films like this are hidden gems, not looking to make grand statements, targeted towards an extremely narrow audience that can draw on and appreciate even the slightest of resemblance to their past or present life.
Making an attempt to write short fiction things. This is sloppy writing at its best and I don’t know where I drew the courage from to post this on my blog. Groan.
“I’m being optimistic here,” you said. I looked into your eyes trying to ascertain if you meant those words. I swallowed hard and said, “The world is often ruined by your optimism.”
You didn’t listen to me then.
I remember when we had only time on our hands and endless evenings to roam the streets and pay for those cigarettes you could never get enough of. I recall with vivid clarity the names of all the songs that you liked and I told you that maybe you should try your hand at music.
The first time I decided you were going to be more than just a regular friend, I knew it was going to be a wrestling match. You were always proud of not being attached to anyone. I said to you, “You’re almost my best friend now.” There was only a half-smile and a slight nod from you.
You came to me for advice about things that I wasn’t particularly good at. How to get rid of a debt, how to not let nicotine show up on a blood test, how to hold back from calling up your old flames. I was never of much help to you and I was always confused why you came to me.
There comes a time in your life when you question if being with someone, platonically or otherwise, is more of a habit or if it’s really, truly a connection you formed over the years. Maybe you get up the next morning, you bring yourself to call them and their voice on the other end reaffirms those nagging worries. Maybe you are scared and you never call.
“I’m learning to play the piano,” you said to me, while I was seated in the front seat of your new secondhand car. After all of these years, you tried to tell me in that one sentence that I was right. You tried your hardest to elicit that I always understood you and you finally understood that.
We spent a half hour discussing what your future career in music would look like and I joked about you losing interest in it within a few weeks. Just like everything else. The expression on your face, the way your hands clenched the steering wheel when I chided you, that’s when I knew that you were going to see this through. That’s when I knew you didn’t need me anymore. I thought it best not to break it to you at the time but that’s when I knew it would be the last time I’d ever meet you.
Being a Follower is about being submissive. Never forget that.
I will admit it outright, I am the person who secretly craves friendships I will never have. I seek a bond intensely real, requiring no words to elaborate and thereby tarnish the beauty of that camaraderie. With the way my life unfolds it is almost unattainable. I am a person who prefers solitude over companionship. Yet, the longing to be able to share a platonic relationship with another person goes much deeper than I ever let on…
This originally appeared on Medium. Click here to read further.
Courtesy: Thought Catalog
Lucy turned to me, looking at the space beyond my body, down past different groups of people that had aggregated on the grassy side of the hill, just like the groups of people that were also above and beside us. “I don’t want to live anywhere,” she said.
The grass was drier underneath us, compared to what we had been walking through (wading through, pulling our knees at high arcs through the mud to be able to place our feet inches from where they were before), as we sat listening to Yeasayer play from the direction of the festival stages. I looked back at Lucy, my eyes focusing on her dark hair sitting above her reddening shoulders, thinking of my own hair—frizzing, dry, and out of control—and thinking back to earlier in the day when Lucy had held her arm out against mine saying in mock disbelief, “I’m so pale.” I nodded sympathetically. “Why am I moving to New York?”
Lucy had recently packed what she could fit into a single suitcase, taken a plane from London to New York then a bus to Baltimore (where she would be staying for 2 months), and then a bus back to New York to meet up with me to see Kanye West perform at The Governor’s Ball. I am currently trying to negotiate a move to New York and have been back and forth, from Woodbridge, Virginia to New York, twice within one week in order to organize job interviews, apartment hunting, and trying to spend time with the people that I would hopefully turn into friends. Though I’m moving to New York, I’ll still be the same person that I am in Virginia. I have to make a concentrated effort to change myself, or at least my everyday habits and actions that manifest as “myself” to an outside observer. Being alone in New York is the same as being alone anywhere else, though ostensibly more expensive. Everywhere I go I try to make the people there into my people. One day I hope to find my person. Lucy is my person, more than anyone, and it’s sad that she is most often far away. And it’s sad that we love boys. For some reason we love stupid boys. I thought, then said aloud, more to myself than to Lucy, “I like when I just have one or two people that I can just be unselfconscious around and just have them be the extent of all my social interactions.” This manifested as a warm feeling moving through me, suddenly feeling grateful for Lucy, and wanting to extend my skin around us both. “I wish we could be neighbors.”
“Liam messaged me the other day and said my story, the one that was just published, was ‘pleasant to read.’” Lucy said.
I looked at Lucy conspiratorially and said, “Pleasant to read… What the hell does that mean?”
“Pleasant to read is like… “ Lucy paused, as if searching carefully through every composition of phrases she could choose from and said, “going to a fucking English garden and eating a slice of cake.”
“Oh, I see. So like, a fucking tea party,” I said, smiling widely.
“He doesn’t get that I’m an art bitch,” Lucy said, matching my smile.
“He doesn’t understand us arty bitches.”
“Oh my god,” Lucy interjected, “I just had a flashback to New Years Eve, I don’t know if this actually happened, but we were on the stairs with Susie, talking about Liam or something related to him, and I just looked at you and said, completely incredulous, ‘Liam thinks language is FUNCTIONAL.’ Just with complete disgust.”
I started laughing, not remembering Lucy having said that but imagining the event and watching it slowly warp and attach itself to my memory of that night. “Oh god, I hope you said that.”
Me: My thing is that I hate when I can feel a guy trying to seem smarter than me or trying to teach me things.
Lucy: Yeah, I get that. The fucked up thing is that I KNOW Liam is an idiot but he’s a way more talented artist than anyone else on the internet, in my opinion. He just… needs to focus.
Me: Yeah, that makes sense but I feel like he would be your Basquiat, like, you would be supporting him so he could just do art things. You don’t want to sacrifice yourself for him.
Lucy: Oh god, no. Absolutely not. The thing is like, I’m not a fucking girlfriend of an artist. I am the artist. So he can stick around but I will be doing my shit. My main focus is my work. No. Our work. As in, you and me.
Lucy: It seems clear that we’re… completely ridiculous.
Me: Yeah, that much is clear.
Laughing, I realized, with an uncertain degree of sarcasm, we were struggling with the condition of being artists, writers in fact — poets, worst of all. Women, even worse.
I remembered the nights we stayed up late on gchat—10pm for me, in Virginia, and 3am for her, in the UK¬—talking seriously, and not so seriously, about our future:
Me: I just read someone’s author bio and thought, “he’s like a fucking famous poet rockstar.”
Me: I want people to think that of me.
Me: Alex Dimitrov. He just has like a whole paragraph of awards and prizes.
Lucy: Jesus. My bio is simply: LK Shaw is a lil bitch.
Me: Fucking famous poet rockstar. Let’s win a prize.
Lucy: We’re only eligible for… the bad bitch contest 😦
Me: lol. We’re in first place tho.
Me: “I’ve also always been intrigued and attracted to characters with really obsessive personalities, or an obsessive nature. This idea that if you’re dissatisfied with the world around you, you can in some way change your environment — that you can go somewhere and create your own world. It’s interesting for me to watch these characters because they can sometimes go so far out and become so isolated they begin to lose themselves… they can disintegrate very quickly or strange things can happen.”
Lucy: Oh. That’s us.
That night we stood for 2 hours — after we watched Grizzly Bear play the main stage — packed against stranger’s bodies in the heat, to watch Kanye West perform. This is what we came for. We watched as they dismantled Grizzly Bear’s meager set up to add more lights and screens. They even covered up the official Governor’s Ball sign, per Kanye’s request. We could hear our friend Peter, who was separated from us by one or two bodies, encourage a girl not to leave to go to the bathroom because “Kanye would change her life.” And he did. We were 5 feet from where he stood, screaming with every intensity, “Assholes deserve to be lonely,” an ad-lib that Kanye repeated over the beat to “Runaway.” When Kanye asked, “Where the bad bitches at? Where ya hidin’?” Lucy and I looked to each other: here we are.
The next day Lucy and I sat on our respective buses back to Baltimore, I was taking “Vamoose” and she “Bolt Bus,” texting the entire way. I had missed my original bus at 5:00 pm so now our bus schedules were almost in sync. She left New York at 6:30 and I left at 7:00.
Me: Jacob went to see a place in Crown Heights that he loves. I haven’t seen it but it seems ideal. We’re probably going to go for it.
Me: My new life…
Lucy: That seems good.
Me: Seems funny how I just keep making decisions that further commit myself to this while thinking ‘what am I doing?’ more amused than earnestly trying to figure it out.
We had both stopped at a rest-stop somewhere after traveling for a few hours. I walked inside and noticed mine had a sign that said “Baltimore.” I asked Lucy if she happened to be at the Baltimore rest stop but she was in Delaware. My bus had somehow pulled drastically ahead of hers.
I got back on the bus and fell asleep, waking up to a road sign that said “Welcome to Baltimore” and a text from Lucy that said she was just arriving in Baltimore. I was confused until I remembered what the signing on the rest-stop had actually said, having stopped their multiple times coming up and back from New York. Over one set of doors it reads, “To Baltimore” and over the other it reads, “To New York,” depending on which way you pulled into the rest stop, in Delaware. We had both been at the same rest stop via different buses at the same time, just missing each other.
The next morning in bed I felt sad about all the people in my life that I missed and all the people that I’m trying to put in my life to replace them. I felt sad about not having a reason to be in any one place in particular, with any one person in particular, but it wasn’t a glamorous sadness and I didn’t want to indulge in it. I cried in an ugly, private way and went to work.
Such a sombre song with a really haunting video. The way the story plays out in flashbacks is really something and adds meaning to the repetitive, hypnotic lyrics. The ambiguity at the start, the instrumental in the middle, the grief at the end.
“I am very interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.” – Stephen Chbosky
(I have been procrastinating way too much lately. This review should’ve been written by me long ago. But then again, it’s never too late for anything. Or so I like to believe.)
For people who claim that movies based on novels never match up to the magic written words can create, here is a fair exception. Perks Of Being A Wallflower is an absolute breakthrough. It is as profound, deeply moving and eccentric as the book. I say this with as much conviction as I can. Having read and watched, I would not be able to separate one from the other. I think the primary reason for this is the author of the book Stephen Chbosky is also the director of this wonderful coming-of-age high-school teenage drama.
The movie’s star cast is so fitting. You have Logan Lerman (Charlie) playing an anxious, emotional, lonely and unsure boy with a troubled past and a history of mental illness. There is Emma Watson (Sam) who plays a strong-headed, self-opinionated, affectionate, smart and sassy senior. Ezra Miller (Patrick) stars alongside Emma Watson as her step-brother and all-time companion.
Already, I can feel my pulse quickening. That is the effect this movie had on me. The actors have brilliantly portrayed their characters, so much so that one hour through this movie you feel like you’ve known these people forever. Emma Watson has left Hogwarts and transcended into college, Logan Lerman has no traces of Percy Jackson and what should I say about Ezra Miller… No words that I use will be good enough to compliment his acting abilities. Who would’ve thought he would make such a brilliant Patrick after playing a sociopath in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’.
Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a retro, American high-school indie movie set in the 1990s. Although this is not stated per se in the movie, from the nostalgic, dreamy, soft rock music that the three teenagers base their lives around, any person with functioning hearing ability can figure that out. Much of my 2013 playlist are songs from this movie.
That was a suitable background and now I will delve further. This movie, as the title goes, is about the pros of being a Wallflower. A Wallflower is someone who silently observes and does not like being the centre of attraction or in this case the centre of anything. They could easily pass as a mere painting on the wall without anyone ever bothering to look twice. And I’m sure; we have all been Wallflowers at some point in our lives.
The Wallflower here is Charlie. A young freshman about to start his first year at high school. We get to know more about Charlie from the letters he pens to an anonymous friend. Charlie is an aspiring writer, full of potential, loved dearly by his parents and sister (Nina Dobrev). In any teenager’s life, friends are very important. As adults, many of us will refute that. I am 19 and I already do.
Charlie, having just resurfaced from a tragic instance in his past sets out to make a brand new start to his high school year. Enter Patrick and Sam, and everything suddenly transforms for Charlie. Charlie goes through the highs of having crushes and trying drugs to the extreme lows of watching the person you love, love someone they don’t deserve. It is with Sam that Charlie starts listening to ‘different’ music and explores the facets of unrequited love; it is with Patrick that Charlie learns that it’s about being yourself no matter what anyone labels you as, even if that means only being ‘below average’. It is with Mary Elizabeth that Charlie learns about relationships and sex. It is with Professor Billy that Charlie expands his writing potential. It is with his sister he learns about what it is like to be abused by the one you love, but deep down he already knew that. With his aunt, who is no more; he has constant haunting visions of who she was and what she did to him. But ultimately it is with himself that he realizes what and who he needs to grow as a person and become who he ought to be.
Halfway through the movie, when everyone including the audience is deeply entangled in the plot, I had a sudden pang of fear that Perks would lose its essence, the beautiful build-up would just crash and burn like most clichéd American high-school crushes. But fortunately, it didn’t. There are scenes which are so awfully relatable you will wonder if you just heard the strings in your heart snap.
The ‘90s party sequences, the mesmerizing drives through the Tunnel, Secret Santa, The Living Room Routine, Sam and Charlie’s study sessions, The Rocky Horror Show, Patrick’s nuisances in shop class, and Sam’s laughter are what stays with you till the end of this daze.
Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a movie very close to my heart. This might not have seemed like a review and more of an exemplary praise from someone who is oblivious to noticing any kind of flaws. But that’s what you do to something or someone so close to you, you don’t point out their shortcomings. You embrace them. You fondle them and put them to rest. Perks was very well received from the critics and masses but there were some who claimed it was not convincing. What those people need to do is let down their guard for a mere few hours and watch the movie all over again. I’m sure that would help.
For others who haven’t watched it at least 10 times, here is something to lure you.
Watch this movie and swear that in that moment, we were infinite.
“Life is made of fear. Some people eat fear soup three times a day. Some people eat fear soup all the meals there are. I eat it sometimes. When they bring me fear soup to eat, I try not to eat it, I try to send it back. But sometimes I’m too afraid to and have to eat it anyway.”
I sit and think sometimes, is it possible that every good and relatable piece of literature has already been written? Is there anything more any of us futile humans can add to it? Good ideas strike me best when I am travelling. Watching people is the most interesting activity in the world.
I am in a car. The world outside is grey, dark grey and blue. I have a memory. It’s the earliest memory I can remember. Let me tell you how it goes.
I was an awkward little girl, holding her mother’s hand and walking to kindergarten. This isn’t a made-up, clichéd story to amuse you. So it is not my first day. It is somewhere down the line. The first few days, you are trying to understand socially acceptable behaviour, learning to memorize alphabets by sounds. The very first formative years of your life. Your very first baby steps into the world of making and faking friendships. For every kindergartener, stationery was important. The fancier your stationery, the cooler your social stats and higher the chances of you doing better in exams. I remember my mother telling me that I should take care of my things. She never said anything about not lending them to my friends. She didn’t warn me about friends who didn’t care to return them.
After seeing my stationery items missing on a regular basis, my over-protective mother started writing my name on things, wherever possible. What she didn’t infuse in me at that point was that I needed to be careful about who I befriend. I needed to guard myself. Because sometimes that’s what people do. They take things. They take and take and don’t return. They persistently say that they owe you but you just can’t bring them around to settle the debt. You get tired and you can’t make them reciprocate. Nor can you make them return those things because I mean, how can you give back someone their own feelings (especially when you don’t have any)?
I know you think this story isn’t going anywhere. But it is a memory, it doesn’t have to go. It stays embedded in a strand of your nerves, ready to alight at the strangest of times. Memories are baffling. They aren’t like stories. You don’t have to follow the fixed storyline. You can alter them. You can ponder and ponder and continue pondering till they stop making sense. Or you can derive something completely new from a memory you thought you barely remembered. That’s what memories are like, you can cherish them, you can despise them, fear and loathe them, you can try to forget, you can also try to relive them. Memories cannot be elucidated in words. That’s the beauty of memories. Whether you want it or not, they are just there.
Although this is my memory, you are free to imagine that I was born with an innate and overwhelming capacity to love and share and give and give selflessly. I will also let you conclude that it was this innate desire to care in which I drowned ever so rapidly. Ugh, I can barely remember that person I used to be. I alienated it and now it’s gone. Hurray!
So my mother soon started questioning me about my absent-minded habits and whether I had kleptomaniacs for friends. Of course, the latter was implied. As over-protective mothers usually are, she wanted me to introduce her to the friends I sat with in class. So she could do something about my constant missing stationery. She even made me carry a really pretty, pink pencil which was sure to catch everyone’s eye. I didn’t know that she had a plan. But then again mothers always do.
As you can now predict, my friend borrowed the pencil. Borrowed it and used it. And quietly kept it on her person. Kept it for so long, I even forgot until I reached home and my mom’s plan unfolded in full fury. She demanded I give her a name. At that moment, I lied. I lied and told her that I lost it. I did not give her my friend’s name. I wouldn’t dare. That’s not what real friends do, right? Even in that tender age I chose to protect my friend. What was I thinking? My friend would never know about my heroic feat. What WAS I thinking?
I have reached my destination. It’s time to put this memory to rest. I alight the car and wonder how different this memory would’ve turned out had it happened 18 years later. Hell, I wouldn’t even think twice to take a name. Friends are never stationary. I was done drinking the fear soup because saying you’re friends is easy. Being friends is not.