Sunday, November 25, 2012

At this moment / You mean everything

I remember watching a sitcom when I was an adolescent, in which the issue was who has it tougher, adults or teenagers.  (as memories go, I don't remember which sitcom)

Now I have had my share of life to deal with since becoming an adult.  Money problems, family issues as parents and other family members get older.  I would not say adulthood is easy.  Because I guess for most of us, life in general is not easy.  And as many fond memories I have of those teenage years, I would not for a second want to go back to that time.  Yes maybe to do many things differently.  But then I'd probably just redo the same mistakes over by making new ones. 

The teenage years are tougher than being an adult.  That's my opinion.  Something like 85% of people that commit suicide do it by age 25.  It can feel like a survival of the fittest, and we know early enough words like "fair" are not relevant.     

I suppose I was on the fringe.  Never one of the "popular" kids, I also usually made friends fairly easily.  Friends that I still have today, even if 3 hour phone calls about life's biggest issues are a thing of the past.  I would not trade those friendships in for anything.  The ones I made in those awkard years, also seeming in my head as some of the most special.  Maybe because we shared that teenage angst that served Kurt Cobain so well (for a time).  Like friends made in the military; we have that bond of making it through something together.  We made it through a cliquey, classist high school experience in where what your last name was, was as important as anything else.  (And we did not have the proper last names)

And in those times you cling on to certain pop culture together.  I remember us watching "Dazed and Confused" as well as "Reality Bites," 3 or 4 times each in the course of one day.  REM's "Out of Time," U2's "Achtung Baby" and Pink Floyd's "The Wall' seemed to have many of life's answers in them, if we just listened hard enough.  And while in the dark.  Cat Stevens was also good after watching "Harold and Maude" for the 10th time.  The majority of music we would discover as most important to us, being 10 plus years old    We did not do drugs in the strict sense.  But alcohol would make us even more knowing and deep in these moments. 

Especially if Peter Gabriel's "San Jacinto" or "Family Snapshot" were playing.

When you are a teenager everything is drama.  But while that all seems so hilarious now, it does not make that drama less real. 

So we cling to shared experiences.  Mix tapes made that show our love for people that our own words could not express.  I would sign off on those lengthy almost nightly phone conversations with my best female friends with "I love you."  Often they would say it first.  It is just what we said before "goodbye," because well for one thing, we meant it.  We did love one another.  Though not a romantic love, we could still express in that way, what our friendship meant to one another.

Now when I talk to these same friends, I can not quite say "I love you" anymore before I say "goodbye."  All of us being married, it might sound awkward.  Even though those feelings are all still there somewhere, if in slightly less dramatic ways. 

Many writers are drawn to the teenage/high school stories.  Because it is this angst that so often creates artists.  They simply are not always done very well, which seems rather tragic.  Some films we build up better than they are or were.  Watch "St. Elmo's Fire" again.  Did you love it in your youth?  Actually don't watch it again.  Remember what you might have thought of it once.  It has not aged well, and in reality was never very good in the first place.   

Too many of these films seem written by someone who can never truly capture the high school experience.  How is that possible?  They get the cliches, but miss the emotional experience.  So I want to cheer after seeing television shows like "Freaks and Geeks," and "My So Called Life."  Maybe appropriately those shows lasted about 12 episodes each.  The characters forever look the age they are supposed to look.   

Last night I saw a "high school" film.  And I almost did not get to because of those issues adults face.  I got away after a long day at the store I own.  Decided to go to a nice dinner with the wife (cuz we had a coupon).  Then to go see "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."  A film neither myself or the wife knew much about, and purposefully so. 

We got the tickets (cuz we had a coupon)  then went to dinner.  Then in the middle of the meal, adult problems called my cell phone. 

"Matt I accidentally pulled the fire alarm in the store and I can not get it to turn off."  (Huh.  Ok) 

"Call 911 and tell them its a false alarm." 

Then I called my property manager.  Who goes to investigate and calls me back with, "I don't know why its going off or what to do."   (Huh)  

I try to get the check as quickly as possible.  I make numerous calls back to the store, all with the alarm blaring in the background.  Finally I convince the fire department to come investigate and help me.  I beat them there by about 1 minute.  We figure it all out. 

Can we still make this movie?

We race back and get in.  The 20 minutes of previews being our grace to see it from the beginning.  And what followed was a film I would have loved as a teenager.  It was also a film I loved as a 37 year old man.  I had that nice light uplifted feeling upon exiting the theater.  I think the writer/director experienced high school too once upon a time.

"All of my previous selves still survive somewhere inside of me, and my previous adolescent would have loved "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." The movie has received glowing reviews, and some snarky ones that seem to have been written by previous adults."  -Roger Ebert

The story is set up by rising high school freshman Charlie, writing an unknown person.  And almost subconsciously, it feels like Charlie's memories inside his head we are witnessing.  Some things maybe looking better by memory.  Time and clocks are shown more than a couple times.  In the very beginning, Charlie comments on how many days before he will be finished with high school; and put that way it does seem like a life sentence.

Charlie eventually makes a friend in the senior Patrick, by calling him by his name, instead of "nothing" as a shop teacher once called him.  "Nothing," stuck as a moniker.  Charlie then meets Patrick's step-sister, Sam, played by Emma Watson.  I don't know how good an actor Watson is, maybe its even too early to know.  But she is perfectly cast here.  She must play someone easy to fall in love with; (as Charlie falls for her almost immediately).  And she pulls that off rather effortlessly.  Not a bad quality in any actor.

I won't say too much more as to not spoil the story.

You have some of the high school cliches.  But they are often cliches for the many truths in them.  But these are easily forgiven by the strong execution.  The script is based on the book, both being written by the same guy, Stephen Chbosky.  He also directed the film, so obviously he feels close to the material.  Set in a time in which I was also in high school, I liked the subtle but accurate touches of the time period.  (The Mexican influenced multi colored pull-over a character wears, that I had almost the exact same version of)

Charlie makes a mix tape for Sam to show his feelings for her.  The Smiths being the type of sad music that speaks to teenagers of the time period.  Gift giving is shown as accurately important amongst these friends.  (How my friends always stressed over the perfect Christmas gift to give one another.  Now I try my best to get out of this tradition with family)  An older college student takes the tape out during a party and says, "enough of the depressing music." 

Like there was any other type of music to listen too?        

Almost every main character and minor character has pain.  We see something or know of something rather major that they have dealt with or are still working through.  While this is not always caused by parents, its usually caused by adults in their life.  But we don't really see any monster adults. (And Charlie's parents seem ideal)  This is not about the adults.  It is how the adolescents deal with what the adults have done to them.  And try to hold on and not let that time tick away, in between becoming them.  While at the same time getting through this time called adolescence in one piece.

The movie might feel sentimental or sappy in parts.  But it is a sentiment that is real to you when you are that age.  Something maybe some older critics have indeed forgotten.  Because for the sentimental parts, nothing felt false either.  Nothing is exactly wrapped up in a shiny bow.  We don't know what happens of Charlie or Sam or Patrick 15 years from now.  We just have the happy ending of trying to hold on to one moment.  Moments we indeed wish were 'infinite.' 

And maybe with our best memories, they indeed are.