I knew it was coming. American Graffiti came out in 1973 and painted the fifties in nostalgia. 1993’s Dazed and Confused did the same for the seventies. With it being the second decade of the 21st century, the nineties were due for their day in the sun, but it’s still jarring to see a movie like The Perks of Being a Wallflower paint my high school days as though they took place in a different millenium.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is set in the early nineties (Pavement and L7 play in the background, so I’m guessing 1992), where a mentally anguished teenager comes of age. Charlie is beloved by a group of good looking outcasts and has a supporting, loving two parent home, so you wouldn’t think he should have such angst. But of course there is an incident in Charlie’s history that explains his introversion (the fact that so many of the characters in this movie attend Penn State might help you guess the nature of this trauma).
If you liked Garden State with its minority free world of poor little rich white boys who can’t find anyone but a pretty waif to understand him, this is your movie. If you are embarrassed to admit you liked Garden State and every time you hear that Shins song, a tear comes to your eye, The Perks of Being a Wallflower will also be your movie. If you’re nostalgic to how all-encompassing music was to the nineties (the boom boxes, the mixed tapes traded as currencies, the bulky walkmen, the most important ingredient toward friendship being a shared taste in music, the idea that you could hear a song once and never be able to find out what it was), this will also be your movie.
The characters of The Perks of Being a Wallflower would definitely approve of the soundtrack of Lawless with its bluegrass cover of a Velvet Underground song. Lawless would get even more cred because the script was written by indie rock icon Nick Cave. The Perks characters would probably also dig the incredibly violent nature of this movie set in 1930s Appalachia about a family of bootleggers struggling against corrupt Feds.
But that would be because in 1992 the similar television show Boardwalk Empire was not yet airing on HBO. With Boardwalk Empire’s episodic nature we have had over 27 hours so far to get to know the characters who inhabit the Prohibition era. With more time to play with we can see the nuances of a world rife with hypocrisies. Because of Boardwalk Empire’s leisurely format the dialogue can afford clever quips and the actors can find their way with their characters.
Lawless is still a fine movie if you’re into sadism, blood and bare breasts. But after watching the first episode of the third season of Boardwalk Empire, Lawless can’t help but feel like the inbred country bumpkin cousin of Prohibition era action dramas.