Jenni Miller September 19, 2012
Actor Ezra Miller is awfully young already to have had an Oscar nomination snatched out from under him, but his performance as a sociopathic teen in Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” was grotesquely overlooked by the Academy last year. Miller, who has been consistently putting in strong and somewhat disturbing performances since his debut in 2008’s “Afterschool,” is due for another crack at a little gold man for this year’s adaptation of the young adult novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Often dressed in fabulous thrift store outfits, with wild hair and a dangerous smirk, the outspoken actor doesn’t give a fig what Hollywood thinks. He’s one of the most interesting young actors out there, and his outspoken subversiveness is the key to his success as Patrick, one of the main characters in writer/director Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” While some of the “Wallflower” characters aren’t as fully formed as our narrator Charlie (Logan Lerman), Patrick is a reader favorite for good reason.
A fully out and proud gay teen, Patrick is gregarious, bitingly intelligent and brimming with the temerity to be himself even as his less-evolved classmates call him “Nothing” and his boyfriend keeps their relationship tucked away in the back of the closet. He and his sister Sam (Emma Watson) befriend Charlie and, under their tutelage, help him navigate his first year of high school with excellent music, parties, “Rocky Horror” and other coming-of-age rituals.
Miller’s sibling chemistry with Watson makes a lot of “Wallflower” work. Fans looking forward to, say, the scene where Sam and Patrick own the floor at a school dance, will not be disappointed. And while he’s maybe not the best friend to young Charlie, he is the one who hits the nail on the head by dubbing him a wallflower and explaining why that is so special. “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand,” Patrick tells him.
Miller is the only actor his age who could do justice to this remarkable character, just as there’s no one else who could have as perfectly played the evil spawn of Tilda Swinton in “Kevin.” (Of course, such questions of good and evil can get rather noodly if you ask any of those involved whether Kevin was actually evil, if his mother’s ambivalence created a monster, or even if such monsters exist.) Behind the posturing of a young man who wrote “99%” on his hand at Cannes is another who tells a reporter, “A lot of [adolescence] left me wanting to end my own life, just give up. It feels like the whole world — because it is. It’s your whole world. But, man — life is a really, really cool ride. It’s really amazing the type of sh*t you can get up to if you endure. Like, you can do anything you want if you can survive.” (This quote is from a must-read cover story on “Perks” in “Out” Magazine.)
What hit home for so many YA readers when “Perks” came out in 1999 is its empathetic but honest portrayal of issues teens have without coming off as exploitative. Charlie has a history of emotional problems and some puzzling blank spots in his memory, and his best friend killed himself just months before. Sam has a murky past that alludes to possible abuse, low self-esteem and a bunch of other stuff. Although Patrick has his problems, Chbosky went out of his way to write him as “the coolest kid—the most self-assured, the least haunted,” he told “Out.” “You know that he’s going to be OK. If you’re a gay kid and you’re looking for role models like everybody else, there he is. There’s no victim here. And if you’re a straight kid, you’re just going to love Patrick because he’s cool.”
Even though LGBTQ teens are more visibly represented in young adult novels these days, they certainly aren’t in movies, especially ones that are being hyped on MTV and in “Vanity Fair.” It’s not just the book’s cachet that is getting the movie noticed, either, but the way its speaks to teens and encourages to accept their own pasts and proclivities fully, and lets them know that whatever is waiting for them after high school is going to be worth it. There is definitely no other character — or actor — that illustrates this point better than Patrick as played by Ezra Miller.
Plus, after seeing him rock out as Frank ‘n’ Furter, we are envious of his gams and his ability to dance in stiletto platforms. And we really would like to see what he’ll wear to the Oscars. If not this year, then soon.
Emma watson, Ezra Miller, For Your Consideration, Logan lerman, Oscar, Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, We Need To Talk About Kevin