Not since the days of John Hughes has an upper class teen film captured the agony and ecstasy of entering true adulthood with the poetry of PERKS. So perhaps it’s only fitting that the movie takes place in the 80s, an era when alt. music by The New Order, The Smiths, Sonic Youth and XTC was showing the smart, disaffected kids in class that they counted. Their mix cassette tape likely would have been this terrific CD (or vinyl) compilation on Atlantic, which provides a well-thought out flashback to an unequalled musical era with the likes of “Temptation,” “Asleep,” “Teenage Riot” and “Dear God” (though ‘

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER score | ©2012 Atlantic

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER score | ©2012 Atlantic

80s Top 40 gets a tip of the hat with Dexter’s Midnight Runners “Come on Eileen”).

More than a hip time trip, WALLFLOWER book writer and movie director Stephen Chbosky has made sure to have the songs speak for a mentally troubled teen’s desperate search to fit in by using his smarts, tune choices that show how music can indeed speak for a generation’s silver-spooned rejects. Upping WALLFLOWER‘s cool factor is the use of less-known alt. bands from the era like Galaxie 500, The Innocence Mission and Cracker, whose empathetic, guitar rock stylings complement the emo vibe. But if there’s once song choice that John Hughes would have approved, then it’s David Bowie’s “Heroes,” an eternal a rock anthem for self-empowerment if ever there was one, especially for our hero’s tunnel-standing triumph over his inner demons, made with more than a little help from his friends.

 Just as impactful in capturing thoughtful teen confusion is the PERKS underscore by Michael Brook (available digitally). Having played the unplugged, acoustical score for the truth seeker who wandered INTO THE WILD, Brook’s score here is a little less rustic for soul-searching that takes place in Chicago’s well-appointed suburbs. Yet WILD‘s conflicted emotions are still very much part of “Wallflower” in the guitar-layered instrumentals that capture the soundtrack’s bourning indie vibe. Most effective in Brook’s approach is the strumming, strings, piano and aching violins of dream-like memory, gently pulling the protagonist’s past haze away to uncover the buried memory that gives PERKS its dramatic wallop. But even then, here’s a poetic gentleness to the score, much like the hesitancy of first real friendship, and love. It’s music that resonates with the deep feeling that makes THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER perhaps the best teen angst film since THE BREAKFAST CLUB, if not even better.

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