Coming-of-age genre produces movie magic

MATTHEW HOUSIAUX

mjhousiaux12@ole.augie.edu

One of the perpetual misfortunes of living in South Dakota, one of the most isolated parts of the United States, is that too often viewing a film you have greatly anticipated requires a great deal of waiting.

Such is the case for Stephen Chbosky’s film adaptation of his own successful tween novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which received a countrywide release on Friday, Sept. 21. Because its arrival in Sioux Falls is not likely to happen for another week or two, perhaps suggesting bridge movies to help quell the anticipation for the film’s release is in order.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is part of a quintessential and oft-implemented genre of narrative art known as the “coming-of-age” story, where the central character, often a curious and confused adolescent, is fully introduced to the potential of the real world.

While this genre was first encapsulated in J.D. Salinger’s masterpiece Catcher in the Rye, it has  become a favorite of filmmakers as well.  In fact, it has become so widely used that it is quite difficult to sift through all the drivel and find those truly worth your time.

Two of my recommendations involve romantic partnerships in which more than the customary number of years separates both parties.

Mike Nichols’s The Graduate follows a young Dustin Hoffman as he sublimates a certain apprehension about his future ambition into an illicit affair with one of his parents’ friends, the sultry Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) whose name would be immortalized in the Simon and Garfunkel song of the same name.

Harold and Maude, the second film by counterculture auteur Hal Ashby, depicts the story of a morbid, death-obsessed teen as he meets and falls in love with Maude, an eighty-year-old woman, whose various idiosyncrasies include attending funerals for fun and uprooting trees planted in the city so they can be taken back to their natural habitats.

Both of these films are incredibly funny in an enviously effortless way, but come with the price of a melancholic undercurrent that seems to pervade in even the most joyously raucous scenes.

One of the more recent (and best) entries into the coming-of-age genre is Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. Like The Graduate and Harold and Maude, a May-to-December romance is also part of Rushmore. However, in the case of this film, a precocious, but an academically impaired private school student Max Fischer’s (Jason Schwartzman) involvement with a first grade teacher (Olivia Williams) is considerably more platonic and chaste in nature.

Finally, if you the viewer are feeling slightly ambitious, legendary French filmmaker Francois Truffaut’s The 400 Blows is perhaps the finest coming-of-age film available.

The film is about an utterly misunderstood adolescent male (Antoine Doniel) whose attempts to do good deeds are constantly thwarted by miscommunication between him and the adults in his life—specifically his parents—and also between different sections of his fragile psyche.

When The Perks of Being a Wallflower finally shows in Sioux Falls, it can be decided how it stacks up to the legacy of unforgettable coming-of-age stories will be determined.