‘Perks’ Denied

I’ve explained previously why I’m really looking forward to Stephen Chbosky’s movie adaption of his own YA novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, opening this weekend in select American cities. I won’t repeat all the reasons, but they range from the pitch-perfect earnestness of the novel and the movie trailer to the post-Potter arrival of Emma Watson, to the general gorgeousness of my boy Logan Lerman. Early reviews are reassuringly positive, with Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir detecting John Hughes-ian qualities, saying “[it] captures (…) the terrible urgency of youth, those moments in anyone’s life when we begin to grasp that life is in fact happening to us too, and that there is no turning back the clock to childhood”. Over at The Playlist, the movie is declared a potential future classic of the teen drama genre, lauded as “touching” and energetic. And perhaps most heartening of all, the oft-underwhelming Lerman is singled out as the stand-out performer.

This is all music to my ears. The trailer mostly laid to rest my fears that the movie would be a failure, but with personal favorites like this, I’m still a protective grudge-holder. It’s almost like I take it personally if critics I trust and admire stray too far from my own expectations. I know it’s silly, and particularly for a movie I have yet to see (as is, arguably, reading reviews of it in the first place, for the same reasons), but I can’t help it. In that sense, order in my universe will probably be upheld for the time being.

“Have yet to see” is a painfully crucial phrase, however. As late as last month, Perks was expected to open in Norway sometime before Christmas. A long wait, to be sure, but still a bright light at the end of the tunnel. That is, until the Norwegian distributor suddenly announced it had decided to drop the movie altogether. As of this writing, Perks will not get a theatrical release in Norway. No reason has been given, but I can’t help but feel that distributor is making a mistake here. Granted, it’s potential for commercial success is much less clear in Norway, especially since the book has never been released in a Norwegian translation. But if the movie could not be sold on the strength of its status as a cult novel (of sorts) in young adult fiction, then why not try to market it on the Emma Watson factor? Or simply as a fresh spin on the tired coming-of-age drama?

That said, I think I could have made the case for the movie on cultural grounds. Norwegian movie theaters tend to offer a relatively diverse set of movies from all over the world, which is one of the system’s greatest strenghts. When it comes to American movies for the teen market, though, the willingness to take risks is more limited, as this example illustrates. Therefore, even though Perks is not set in a contemporary setting per se, I think the movie’s temperament and themes (if handled competently in the transition to the big screen) could have served as an interesting and valuable counterpoint to how the movie-going public is used to see American teens portrayed.

So, what happens now? I have no idea. All I know is that if I want to watch Perks legally, I might have to wait a long time. The window between theatrical and DVD releases are generally relatively short (maybe three-and-a-half to four months), depending on what type of movie we’re talking about. If the movie doesn’t have the benefit of a theatrical release to back it up, however, the picture becomes much less clear. A critically acclaimed movie like Take Shelter, for instance, which even had Oscar buzz early this year for Michael Shannon, didn’t get a Norwegian DVD release until this month, a year after it was released in the US. Likewise, the smaller but not un-marketable Tiny Furniture (2010) still hasn’t been released on DVD here, despite the considerable attention Lena Dunham received when Girls premiered. I could go on. Every movie is different, of course, and even if it didn’t convince the distributor to release it to theaters, maybe the case for Perks could convince it to move up the DVD release.

I hate it when this happens. I know Gregg Araki’s Kaboom was a small movie and one that was unlikely to a broad release, but it was nonetheless frustrating that it didn’t show up on DVD in Europe until late last summer (still no Norwegian release). And there’s no word whether several of the most important movies of this year’s Cannes Film Festival will get screenings. That means no Laurence Anyways, the gorgeous-looking and reportedly wildly ambitious drama from wonderboy Xavier Dolan, who made the promising Heartbeats a couple of years ago. No Like Someone in Lovethe latest from Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami (known, most recently, for the magnificent Certified Copy). Heck, it even means no Cosmopolis, as far as I know. If a glossy, if quasi-existential, Robert Pattinson movie can’t make it, then I’m not sure what can. And we’ve already gotten word that Walter Salles’s On the Road adaption won’t get a wide release. Fortunately, it is scheduled for screenings at next month’s Bergen International Film Festival, so I hope to catch it there.

I’ll wrap up my rant and dry my tears, but losing out on Perks is so frustrating. Now I guess I really have to get around to writing post about why Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables is my second most anticipated movie of the year.

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4 Responses to ‘Perks’ Denied

  1. I love how you said “my boy Logan Lerman.” Haha!

    It’s really such a shame that “Perks” was pushed to the depths. I haven’t seen it yet (although I keep telling myself I will “next weekend”), but I have read the book. And from the reviews that I read, Chbosky seems to have done a great job translating his story to the screen which communicates a whole lot to loads of young people who feel like they’re alone or are outcasts. I would think that if anything, distributors would jump at the opportunity to release it in their respective countries and make money.

    Very much looking forward to “Laurence Anyways.” I loved “Heartbeats.” I thought it was one of 2010’s best.

    • queerlefty says:

      Franz

      Oh yes, Logan. What can I say? It feels like I watched him grow up, from the days of “Jack & Bobby” (how I miss thee!) on. I find him very, ahem, pleasant to look at, but I also feel kind of protective of him. I want him to succeed and to be a good actor, so whenever he actually does anything decent, like “Perks” or “My One and Only” (in contrast to, y’know, “Gamer” or “Percy Jackson”, both unforgivable movies), it makes me happy. But I know you think he looks young. Personal taste, I guess.

      Good news: As of right now, it seems “Perks” has been picked up for a November theatrical release after all. It has yet to be confirmed, however, so I’m trying not to get my hopes up.

      What really intrigued me about the trailer, was the way it celebrates the misfit factor without reducing it to a tired counter-cultural pose. As with the wonderfully well-conceived novel, it seems genuine and not overly sentimental. And that cast! Can’t wait,

      I’m really looking forward to “Laurence” It looks like Dolan has graduated to the big leagues with this film. I guess you liked “Heartbeats” a little more than I did. I found it to be visually stunning (and the cast, not least Dolan himself, are all incredibly beautiful), but maybe trying a little too hard? In the end, it felt kind of hollow on an emotional level, if basically engaging. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dolan has taken some inspiration from “The Dreamers”, which is a far superior movie. But that willingness to engage with the language and legacy of cinema is also one of the reasons why, on the whole, I liked “Heartbeats”.

      Have you seen “I Killed My Mother!? Again, I found things about it that impressed me, but it felt a little self-serious.

      • “I guess you liked “Heartbeats” a little more than I did. I found it to be visually stunning (and the cast, not least Dolan himself, are all incredibly beautiful), but maybe trying a little too hard?”

        I can definitely understand what you mean about its earnestness. It bothered me at times too but I found it easy to overlook because of the visual candy and (and I guess for me) emotional push-and-pull.

        And nope, I have not seen “I Killed My Mother.” I’m waiting for it to be available via Netflix and it still isn’t. I swear, one of these days I’ll just buy the DVD… or stream it online. If I were to make a list of 10 movies that have been released but either currently unavailable or out of print, “I Killed My Mother” would make it in.

        It’s November! I hope you get to see “Perks.” (I still haven’t. =X)

      • queerlefty says:

        Franz,

        first, I’m sorry about the late reply.

        Yes, I finally got to see “Perks”, and I loved it intensely for the precise reasons I loved it. I will try to write something when I get to see it another time, but I can’t promise anything.

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