Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Video review: "The Sessions" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

I’ve never attempted a double video review before, but the simultaneous release of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Sessions” make for a perfect opportunity. Both are small, heartfelt, exquisitely acted dramas about people living on the margins of their community. And each film was virtually ignored in the Academy Award nominations.

In “The Sessions,” John Hawkes plays Mark, a man in his late 30s who is paralyzed and lives inside an iron lung. Frustrated with his virginity, he retains a sex therapist named Cheryl (Helen Hunt) to help bring him into adulthood, as he puts it.

Their story goes on from there, with unintended emotional attachments growing. The film contains a lot of flesh, but writer/director Ben Lewin grabs the audience in the heart, not clutches the loins.

“Perks” may just be the best high school movie of the last two decades. Writer/director Stephen Chbosky, who adapted the film from his own novel, perfectly captures the moods and fears of the teenage soul. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a smart, outcast underclassman who gets taken under the wing of Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), a pair of popular but misfit seniors.

Charlie slowly starts to come out of his shell, while Sam and Patrick are beset by their own respective problems. "Perks" is a wonderfully observant portrait of young people forging their identity in the crucible of high school.

In a film year of highs and lows, these two stood head and shoulders above the crowd … despite Oscar’s snub.

Video extras for "Perks" are decent, including a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and some unedited footage. It also boasts two separate commentary tracks, one with Chbosky alone and a second joined by his cast. Commentaries with both the principle actors and filmmakers tend to be the most engaging.

Video details for "The Sessions" were unavailable at press time.

Movie (both films): 3.5 stars out of four
Extras ("Perks"): 3 stars

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