As Patrick a gay high school senior, Ezra Miller portrays a gay high school senior who camps it up at “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and is predisposed to bring cheer to those around him. | SUMMIT ENTERTAINMENT
BY GARY M. KRAMER | Adapting his bestselling young adult novel, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” writer/ director Stephen Chbosky has crafted a beautiful, sensitive, and often heartbreaking film. What makes this impressive coming-of-age drama resonate — for viewers of any age — is that it gets teenage life right. More than deftly capturing the dynamics of cliques and bullies and the way kids act around parents and teachers, Chbosky accurately presents the way teens, who overdramatize their every emotion, speak. The author-turned-filmmaker also depicts poignantly and without judgment how teens experiment with drinking and drugs, as well as romantic and sexual desires.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is about to enter his first day of high school — 1,385 days to graduation, he counts. He has had a troubled summer, and while he hopes to have something of a fresh start in school, he is inclined to stay as invisible as possible. As such, he does not raise his hand in his English teacher’s (Paul Rudd) class even though he knows the answers. And while Charlie would prefer not to eat alone in the cafeteria, he does because he does not have any real friends.
Charlie’s loneliness changes, however, when he meets Patrick (Ezra Miller), an outspoken senior taking freshman woodshop. Patrick, who is gay and having a secret relationship with football player Brad (Johnny Simmons), takes Charlie under his wing. He introduces Charlie to his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson) and other members of their clique, affectionately dubbed “the island of misfit toys.” Soon, Charlie is going to midnight shows of “Rocky Horror,” and each character experiences a personal, often romantic, crisis that tests them and their friendships.
While “Perks” is Charlie’s story, out actor Miller gets a juicy supporting role. Having given a breakthrough performance in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” Miller shines in “Wallflower.” He camps it up as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the “Rocky Horror” scenes, and adroitly conveys Patrick’s painful romantic setbacks.
The ingratiating actor spoke to Gay City News about being queer, playing gay, and the perks of not being a wallflower.
GARY M. KRAMER: You play a gay teen in “Wallflower,” and you have played a queer teen before, in “Every Day.” You also just came out publicly. Do you feel a resonance with taking roles like Patrick?
EZRA MILLER: I don’t think there is any role like Patrick. This felt like an epically rare, once in a lifetime role to play –– a person who is that much of a hero, but also a conceivable, real kid. I definitely love to play any character that was written with as much depth and dimension.
GMK: Had you read the book before you considered playing Patrick?'
EM: Yes, for years before it was a character that could be played! I had this big imaginary story firmly in my head, which was outstanding and incredibly helpful for molding a part. I’ve read it seven times between age 14 and when I left high school, rendering the book less necessary. I was cultivating an idea of Patrick in my head, not knowing that I could actually accomplish that vision or have any say in it.
GMK: What did you bring to Patrick that wasn’t on the novel’s page or in the screenplay?
EM: Hard to know where lines blur, but I thought a lot about Patrick’s origins and what made him become a caretaker. He stuck with his father through the departure of the mother and tending to a broken father. For a kid, the notion of taking care of a dad going through a divorce can create a pattern of wanting to help or cheer people up. His childhood was making jokes and learning to stand on his own two feet.
GMK: What were you like in high school?
EM: I was a failed extrovert. I never had the patience or restraint to keep my head down when it would have been advisable –– to avoid getting scapegoated or ostracized. Even the wallflower tactic –– the perks are mostly expendable –– you can dodge bullets if you keep your mouth shut. But I can’t.
GMK: Were you often called “faggot” as Patrick is in the film? How did you react?
EM: Constant bombardment! It’s intense to look at the etymology of words like that. At a point I felt “faggot” went from having my feelings hurt to a feeling of condescension. I became the annoying LGBT police against words like “gay” and “faggot,” asking, “What are you taking about? Where do you base that word?” Not the best move for avoiding trouble. If someone can have courage to step up to people who use poisonous words, like “faggot” and “gay,” to show the emotional affects of how it hurts you, sometimes gaps of hatred and bigotry can be bridged.
GMK: Do you think it’s easier for teens to come out at a younger age now?
EM: Yeah. I think people have been pushing and pushing against a really old and reluctant-to-crumble wall for a really long time. The wall –– dammit to hell –– still stands, but we have managed to make some cracks, and more people are able to see the light of possibility and acceptance and inclusion.
GMK: In the film, you got to perform the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” stage show. What can you say about your experience with “Rocky Horror?”
EM: My older sister showed “Rocky Horror” to us when I was eight, when she was babysitting us. It was like having my mind blown open in so many different directions. I’ve gone to floorshows. When I got this part, I went to the floorshow in Chelsea and Pittsburgh. Each community is insane and unique and amazing. It was great fun for us dorky actors to step into that totally devoted world.
GMK: You had some mild kissing scenes –– with Johnny and Logan. Who’s a better kisser, and what kind of guys are your type?
EM: They both have supple lips and, yeah, I got to kiss Johnny for a little longer, but it’s hard to have a comparative mind when it comes to two such strapping lads. I’m attracted to people who are comfortable with themselves –– not self-obsessed, narcissistic, egomaniacal types.
GK: If we were playing “Truth or Dare,” like Patrick and his friends do in the film, what would you dare me to do?
EM: Hmm… I’d dare you to write a really awesome article. I’d double dare you. Ah, that’s a terrible answer.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Directed by Stephen Chbosky | Summit Entertainment | Opens Sep. 21 | Landmark Sunshine Cinema | 143 E. Houston St., btwn. First & Second Aves. | landmarktheatres.com | AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 | 1998 Broadway at W. 66th St. | amctheatres.com | Opens citywide Sep. 28