Embarrassing confession – I love high school movies. I love the funny ones (American Pie, ESPECIALLY Euro Trip (seriously, Scotty still doesn’t know) and the thoughtful ones (Charlie Bartlett, It’s Kind of a Funny Story). Embarrassing confession number two – last year, when “Perks of Being a Wallflower” was in theaters, I decided to go see it – by myself. The problem was, I waited a little too long and it was only playing in one theater in my area. “In my area” is a loose description, because it was about 40 minutes away. Not too far, but considering there are like, 8 theaters within 20 minutes of me, it seemed like a trek. But honestly, it kind of excited me. It made it even cooler. It was going to be my first ever movie by myself (which I was excited about) and adding this pilgrimage to it made it better. So, I drove 40 minutes away to a tiny podunk theater in the middle of nowhere to a theater showing a cool indie flick.
This should have been a clue.
Of course the movie times app was wrong. “Perks” stopped playing yesterday, so I was forced to drive back home or just pick another movie. I picked “Life of Pi.” Bleh. What a crappy first alone-watching experience. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to see “perks” and on Sunday, May the 5th, I finally did. And it was great.
You should watch this movie. Yes it’s a high school movie. But, of the ones I listed above it’s the most adult in the problems the kids face. They are big boy issues, more than just trying to be popular and throw the coolest party. They are the type of issues the fringe kids face and the popular kids hide. At least, that’s what these movies teach me. I shall deprive you of my own recap. Watch the flick, or, if you must, check the recap here.
So the question is, why do I love these movies? And since they keep getting made, why do WE love these movies? I think it’s pretty simple, and it involves a re-writing of the first sentence from this article, which was – “Embarrassing confession – I love high school movies.” It should read – “Obvious confession – we love coming of age stories.” Wikipedia says that a coming of age story focuses on the growth of a protagonist from youth to adulthood. But I heard, or read, a better definition, like, yesterday. And for the life of me, I can’t remember where. But it was something like “where childhood innocence meets adult problems”. I love that.
Charlie (played by Logan Lerman (Sidebar… What if they got an actual nerd to play a nerd in one of these movies?)), the main character in “Perks”, definitely falls in to this category. In the days before his first day on a high school campus, the incoming freshman is nervous and scared. But, because he takes a chance, and steps out to try and meet someone, he befriends seniors Patrick and Sam (played by Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, respectively). The movie is about Charlie becoming friends with this older group, and, I just want to say, Sam and Patrick may be my favorite people ever… And like any good coming of age story it includes (once again, as wikipedia puts it) “themes of maturation, acculturation, loss of innocence, wisdom or acumen, and worldliness.” This is definitely the case with Charlie. He tries drugs, learns to let people in, and of course, falls in love. At the close of the first act of the movie, Sam officially validates him by “welcoming him to the island of misfit toys.” I think that’s a huge part of coming of age stories. I won’t spoil any more for you, I’ll just ask that you watch it.
And now, in the spirit of coming of age, here are two trailers to movies that I am so incredibly excited to see.
This movie looks great. Amazing cast, and, BONUS, it’s written by The Dean from Community (who, by the way, has an Oscar for writing “The Descendents“). I am so excited to see Sam Rockwell play the cool mentor. This movie has everything you need in a good coming of age story. Summer vacation and being around new and interesting girls who don’t know what a dork you are.
This is probably my favorite trailer I’ve seen in a long time. They go the same route as “Way, Way Back” and cast awesome people to play the adults (including RON SWANSON…. WHAT!?!) but the kids also stand out in this movie. Especially the weird, Mclovin character. I want to know that kid. I want him to be my weird knucklehead cousin. I can’t wait to watch this movie about high school kids with my friends, who are all betweek 25 ish and 35 ish, and wish that we too had a boys club house in the woods.
All of these movies have many things in common. But one of the main things is what Sam said to Charlie when she welcomed him to the group. She said he was now a part of the island of misfit toys. I’ve written about this idea before. We all feel that we are part of the weirdos on some level, because we alone know our inner thoughts and how strange they can be. But every coming of age movie, and every coming of age moment in life, really, involves accepting that yes, we are misfits. And yes, we can be home with the other misfits on our safe island. But, at some point, usually when our childhood innocence meets adult problems, we have to learn to stand on our own two legs and step out on our own. We have to grow and become the adult that our lives, and our characters, dictate that we become. Sometimes this is because of our problem, and sometimes it’s in spite of them. But it’s so wonderful and comforting to know that anytime I feel alone, there will always be really good stories that I can find solace in – and we can hang out together on the island of misfit toys.
What are some of your favorite coming of age stories? Feel free to comment, tweet me here, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.