If you’re anything like me, quarantine season’s got you into movies. I’m not really sure why — I’ve never been a big fan of movies since I have an obnoxiously short attention span — but I guess I now have a lot more time on my hands and a lot less to do.
I watched Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” recently, since I remember reading the book as a kid, and I got hooked. Watching a character on screen develop a direction in their life hits, when right now, it feels like we’re all stuck in COVID dystopia.
So read on for some of my quarantine coming-of-age movie picks. Reminisce on your high school years — or maybe just your “school” years — with one of three emotional, awkward, funny and heart-breaking films, all accessible on Netflix.
1. “The Edge of Seventeen”
God, I thought I was going to hate this movie.
The main character, Nadine, is clearly not like other girls. She’s quirky, sassy and she wears cool socks. When her best friend starts going out with her popular, football player brother, she decides to disown her, like any rational high schooler, and begins a new life as the school loner. Her overworked History teacher is now her only friend.
While I absolutely despised Nadine for most of this movie for thinking she’s so special and different, I have to admit parts of her character resonated with me.
She got in stupid fights with her mom she was too headstrong to back down from, she accidentally pushed people away because of her abrasive personality and at one point, she ended up in an awkward hookup situation that was just so painfully… high school.
Despite her coming off as obnoxious, I think it would be hard for anyone not to feel for Nadine throughout her tribulations. We’ve all been that annoying teenager.
And the best part of this movie is the catharsis. I think the satisfaction of seeing things finally go right for someone who, for so long, things have only gone wrong resonates somewhere in the altruistic depths of our monkey brains.
Overall, I liked how introspective this movie was. It didn’t rely on a cringey romantic subplot to carry itself, and it didn’t have an overbearing ‘friends are all you need’ message either.
Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson both played their parts wonderfully. Actually, I could probably write a whole essay on how great Woody Harrelson’s character is, but since this isn’t the time, I’m just gonna say watch the movie.
2. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
I really don’t know what to say about the movie except that it’s really good. It just is. I remember reading the book in middle school and thinking ‘wow that was so sad,’ and then wondering why someone would ever write sadness for what seemed like the express purpose of making other people sad.
But now that I’ve seen the movie, I think perhaps, “Perks” belongs to a very small taxon of stories that actually work better as film than prose. And I’m saying that as a writer.
Quite frankly, I don’t think even Author/Director Stephen Chbosky had the words to describe Emma Watson, eyes closed and arms splayed, standing in the back of a pickup truck speeding through a dimly-lit tunnel at night beneath the backdrop of a glittering city, while David Bowie’s “Heroes” plays.
I don’t think anyone has those words. It’s one of those scenes that pulls at your gut, nostalgia and yearning together crafting some sort of questionable neurotransmitter cocktail in your brain.
“Perks” is a story of heartbreak and of breaking and fixing yourself. It’s about both platonic and romantic love, and it dives into deep, visceral issues, including mental health. It can be hard to follow at some points, but it all comes together in the end.
Overall, “Perks” makes you feel both full and empty at once. It’s not sadness for the express purpose of sadness. It’s a wrought, painful and ecstatic portrait of the human experience.
I think that’s all I think I can say. Watch the movie.
3. The Spectacular Now
This is a complicated movie. It follows teenage alcoholic Sutter, played by Miles Teller, and his budding relationship with Amy, played by Shailene Woodley. I think I watched it because it seemed to cast straight from the Divergent movie, which I loved in middle school — but it is nothing like Divergent, just for the record.
There’s a lot more drinking. And teenage angst. And teenagers getting into fights with their parents. And even some sex.
For the same reason as “Seventeen” and “Perks,” I loved this movie because it’s cathartic, but unlike “Seventeen” and “Perks,” I thought this movie examined the relationship between young people and alcohol well. It also scrutinized the high school experience through the lens of poverty and generational trauma, something neither of the other movies on this list really hit.
It had me rooting for a character I don’t think I’d normally root for, and while it spends over an hour unravelling Sutter’s personal threads, it weaves them back together in a beautifully oversimplified final scene, a scene which leaves more questions than answers, but doesn’t leave the viewer with any real desire for more answers.
There’s visceral heartbreak and plenty of ups and downs, but overall, “The Spectacular Now” is a movie worth your time.
Enjoy these three movies and the plethora of others on and offline.