Regenerative Beings

Regenerative Beings

A Story by Contessa

So this is an essay I wrote comparing two films and I have no idea if this is the sort of thing people put on this site but yeah I worked hard on it and figured I'd slap it up here just for kicks.


Tess Christian

English 9C

Jenni Baldwin

17 May 2017

Regenerative Beings

For years, I have been someone who has had to fight to unblock their throat to say a specific phrase to each peer and adult who has asked me, in flowery words, what is wrong with me. It’s a very simple phrase, only four words long: I struggle with depression. I struggle with depression. A few months ago, I reached a point in my life in which I gave up on trying to smother my depression with my outward face and preoccupied thoughts, and I began to debate going inpatient. The main thing stopping from doing so was a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I was making it all up and that I was fine. I spoke to a very close friend of mine about my doubts and worries and she said something that I will never forget. She said “Depression lies to you. It tells you that you’re not worth it, and most of all, it tells you that you’re fine.” This is, without a doubt, one of the single most influential things that anyone has said to me. Since then, since that one day that sent a simple quote ricocheting around my mind, I have been through a time in Children’s Hospital and, ultimately, chosen to live. We all have these moments, these relationships, that change us. We have them all throughout our lives, large or small, memorable, or not. People are changed�"and allow themselves to be changed�"by people they trust and form close bonds with, no matter who they may be or where in their life they are. Both Stephen Chbosky, director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, directors of The Way, Way Back, send messages of transformation from vulnerability to confidence as a result of influential relationships, through the transformation both main characters experience as a result of the relationships they form and those they form the relationships with.

In order for a glass to be filled with water, it must be empty first. The same concept applies with humans�"for someone to develop confidence, they have to be lacking in it first. In both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Way, Way Back, directors Chbosky and Faxon and Rash begin their main characters’ respective tales shy and friendless, ready to meet new people, spiking the beginnings of the characters’ transitions to more confident version of themselves, showing that humans are dramatically impacted by those around them.

In Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s The Way, Way Back the main characters are placed in situations which bring out their desperation for companionship, allowing them to open up to the people who help them grow and change, in order to show people are inspired to change by those closest to them.  Both Charlie, the main character of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Duncan, from The Way, Way Back, begin their respective experiences in unfamiliar places shy, awkward, uncomfortable, and friendless. Charlie, an English class enthusiast, is too scared to raise his hand to answer Mr. Anderson’s (Charlie’s English teacher) questions, instead writing the answers down on a sheet of paper, which Mr. Anderson sees as he walks by Charlie’s desk (The Perks of Being a Wallflower 0:05:47). Duncan shows the same level of discomfort and friendlessness when he first arrives at Trent's, his stepdad, beach house. Duncan, described as “a painfully shy, alienated 14-year old” by Tirdad Derakhshani, is forced to go to the beach with Trent’s daughter and her friends, where Duncan proceeds to sit isolated in the warm sand in his jeans and t-shirt, an awkward distance away from the group he was “invited” to join (Derakhshani 1). The shy (and almost antisocial) behaviors of the two characters show the directors’ choices to place the boys into unfamiliar surroundings in order to highlight Duncan and Charlie’s vulnerability and need for friendship and/or a role model. Charlie is clearly itching to give the right answer to his teacher in a room full of people who don't know the right answers. But alas, Charlie is too intimidated by his peers to take the simple risk of raising his hand in a class in which he would otherwise excel, showing his lack of maturity and confidence. Duncan faces similar issues: he is clearly lonely and bored and, most of all, sad, but is too socially awkward (and aware of his social ineptitude) to make friends, also a sign of his lack of maturity. By this, the directors highlight the idea that the main characters cannot mature on their own.  

Directors Chbosky and Faxon and Rash introduce foils in the form of new characters who appear to have directly opposite personalities to Charlie and Duncan into the main characters’ lives to show the possibilities of learning from others. Patrick and Sam, two outgoing characters who are seemingly polar opposites of Charlie, see something in him that Charlie does not see in himself, and push his boundaries while at the same time trying to do most things for his benefit. As Manohla Dargis says in her review of the film, Charlie is “rescued by the friendships he makes with Patrick…and…Sam” (Dargis 1). The kindness of Patrick and Sam is exemplified when Charlie is alone at a high school football game, and the two seniors invite him to tag along with them on their later plans (The Perks of Being a Wallflower 0:12:06). Patrick and Sam essentially force Charlie into uncomfortable and unfamiliar social situations�"much like English class�"and yet Charlie still obliges because of his desperation for companionship. Charlie’s seemingly inexplicable willingness to engage after his initial hesitancy is a tool used by Chbosky to show how even a splash of kindness and role model material can begin to change a person. Duncan's similar interaction in The Way, Way Back begins with an outing to escape from the tension in his family, Duncan meets Owen at an antique Pacman arcade game. Owen, a carefree character living each moment at high speed, sees his past self in Duncan and takes him under his wing. He pushes Duncan to be the more confident version of himself Owen knows he can truly be. Owen’s mentor mentality is emphasized by directors Faxon and Rash when Owen offers Duncan a ride back home from the waterpark he owns. Duncan draws the entire ordeal out longer than it needs to take�"rambling on instead of offering a simple “yes”�"and Owen claims that the two of them have “got to start having faster conversations” (The Way, Way Back 0:41:55). Duncan complies, throwing his bike in the back of Owen’s car and responds with a simple “thanks”. This interaction is one of the many ways the directors choose to show the relationship between Owen and Duncan. A relationship much like that of Charlie, Sam, and Patrick�"Duncan tags along with Owen, plodding into uncomfortable situations but enjoying having a friend. This shows the change in Duncan’s behavior from the shy, brooding teenager of the first part of the film when he is forced to go to the beach to the kid happily following along after his role model and confidant, much like Charlie. The directors of both The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Way, Way Back use this change in character for the boys to show the viewers the complete positive one-eighty possible in someone after they form a close meaningful relationship.

The directors introduce compelling supporting characters that will be agents of change to the main characters. What makes them compelling and attractive to the main characters is how full they are in terms of understanding and being comfortable with themselves. The choices that the directors Chbosky and Faxon and Rash make put their characters on a critical path in order for them to achieve maturity.

Both films depict the positive impact of relationships upon an adolescent character’s ability to mature, suggesting an insightful role model is influential to personal growth in adolescents. By the end of the films, the directors demonstrate their main characters' growth as a result of the exposure to the more interactive lives of their role models by making them actively engaged participants in their own lives. Charlie’s growth is exemplified by Chbosky in one of the last scenes in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Mr. Anderson asks the class who is going to read for fun over the summer and, disappointingly, no one raises their hand�"that is, except Charlie. Charlie, the quiet, smart kid at the beginning of the year who is too scared to raise his hand in a room full of peers shouting answers and flinging their arms left and right, finally, finally, raises his hand in a sea of blank expressions and still arms. Charlie’s willingness to be singled out for the sake of his favorite subject shows not only his growth as a person, but that his growth is the direct result of three people: Mr. Anderson, who tells him he must participate, and Sam and Patrick, who inspire him to allow his personality show through and speak his mind.  Charlie comes so far that he is willing to take a social risk for the sake of “participating,” all due to the influence of his peers.  The same breakthrough moment is shown for Duncan in The Way, Way Back. Through being influenced by Owen’s genuine personality and self-assuredness, Duncan manages to be himself and make his own decisions by the end of the film. Owen affirms Duncan’s progress in becoming himself when Duncan comes to the man who is practically his father figure with the issue of his manipulative, self-centered, philanderer of a stepdad. Owen validates and reassures Duncan by explaining to Duncan that he “can’t buy into [Trent’s] s**t” and that Duncan is, in fact, “going [his] own way” in life (The Way, Way Back 1:24:20). Owen’s statement verbalizes the idea that Faxon and Rash are trying to push to the audience with their film�"in learning from those they form close bonds with, adolescents grow and change to become themselves, or to, as Owen puts it, go their own way. Charlie and Duncan both find themselves growing to more mature and confident people throughout their stories, a process shown by directors Chbosky and Faxon and Rash through their specific characters and cinematic choices. Both directors cast leads who are able to embrace the persona of a lonely, socially awkward teenager with the capacity to grow, change, and learn. Within the respective story lines, both characters go through challenging and rewarding times and come out of their experiences not only more confident, but with extremely profound friendships. They have now been changed, for the better, by the relationships they have made and the people they have learned from.

The directors of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Way, Way Back portray the deep, positive affect people have on those they form close relationships with through their respective main characters’ journeys and those they meet along the way. Chbosky and Faxon and Rash highlight the importance of forming relationships with trustworthy and “safe” people, something that each human, introvert or extrovert, will require getting through one, if not many, difficult times in their life. The heartwarming coming-of-age stories of Duncan and Charlie not only make for sweet tales and relatable films, but also share with each and every person that watches them the potential power of the affect their friends, family, and lover(s) may have on them. This moral, obvious or not, inspires its viewers and interpreters to open their minds and hearts to learning from others and allow themselves to be changed for the better by the people around them.


            Firstly, I would like to thank you, Jenni, for giving me the very unique challenge of analyzing and comparing two films. I have analyzed literature my entire life and could probably have written this paper in a week or two if it was based upon two books, but this was the first time I have ever analyzed film, and I learned more than I could have imagined. I would also like to thank my dad for sitting through my frantic and hardly coherent rants about new connections between Perks and Way Back that I found in the early stages of this project. Thanks to my mom for listening to hours of my talking aloud to myself while I wrote this paper (it helps I swear). Thank you to Silvia Nica for providing thorough entertainment and a steady source of happiness for me during the past couple months. Thank you to Uma Nene for reading through this even though she was doing so out of her own desperation of getting her paper edited. A quick tip of my helmet to musician and artist Eluvium for writing a song called Regenerative Beings that I learned to play on the piano two months ago and thusly became my title. And lastly, thank you, so so much, to Zoe Chaiken, for being the reason I am alive to write this paper. I quite genuinely would not be here typing up my gratitude if it wasn’t for her inexplicably moving words used at the beginning of my paper. I have never been so grateful to be saved. Thank you. 



Works Cited

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Directed by Stephen Chbosky, Summit
     Entertainment, 2012.

The Way, Way Back. Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, Sycamore Pictures, 2013.

Derakhshani, Tirdad. "'Way, Way Back' is way, way honest and moving." Review of
     The Way, Way Back. Tribune Content Agency [Washington], 12 July 2013,
     pp. 1-2. Tribune Content Agency. Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Dargis, Manohla. "An Introvert Finds His Way Through Teenage Terrain." Review of
     The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 2012. The New York Times, 20 Sept.


© 2017 Contessa

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Added on July 4, 2017
Last Updated on July 4, 2017
Tags: essay, film, research paper



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