There is something undeniably refreshing about the prospect of watching a trio of introspective teens prevail over high school's onslaught of indignities and epiphanies, without the help of magic, metaphysics, or a variety of other narrative flavor enhancers that have become the standard in young adult fiction. The first trailer (below) for writer-director Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own coming-of-age novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, delivers the kind of unplugged take on teen angst that has become all too rare in the age of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. Chbosky's simple story of a young loner who happens upon a tribe of fellow outcasts and iconoclasts plays like a throwback to the more intimate visions of the journey over puberty's muddy embankment. It's closest recent cousins seem to be last year's "Submarine" and "Juno." Either way, we could not be more excited for this revisionist approach to the old-fashioned coming-of-age story.
It's no longer enough to survive the hormonal hazing that is adolescence with a set of meticulous notes that will eventually become the intimate bildungsroman that celebrates simply living to tell the tale ... and telling it well. Philip Roth, Jennifer Egan, Tobias Wolff, Peter Cameron, Russell Banks, and Frank Conroy are just a few of our favorite examples of writers who have taken a low-fi approach to the coming-0f-age narrative, proving that there is no shortage of conflict 0r high-stakes suspense when you combine soulful teenagers with the cruel rites of passage they inflict upon each other and the flawed and/or clueless adults charged to care for them.
Now that "The Hunger Games" has devoured box office records, making the once dominant "Twilight" a second-string player in the high stakes popularity contest for the hearts and minds (and pop culture-consuming dollars) of the world's youth, it's become increasingly hard to find a tale of teen angst that isn't set in a dystopian future or tricked out with supernatural gimmicks. Just this past weekend, Fox picked up the rights to S. J. Kincaid's Insignia, about a teenage gamer recruited by an elite military to become a computerized human-borg fighting machine on the front lines of World War Three. Exciting? Well, sure. But we'd argue that all these plot-point pyrotechnics feel like an unnecessary distraction given the emotional firepower of unnaturally intense friendships, first love, and schoolyard shunning.
Did this glimpse at footage from "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" remind you of how much you'd missed a simple, unadorned coming-of-age narrative on the big screen? What are some of the young adult that most took the sting out of adolescence for you growing up?