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For all the subtlety and bittersweetness of the book and its new film adaptation, Sunday night proved that sometimes there are significant perks to being a wallflower.
The upcoming film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, was the focus of a gorgeous screening event thrown at the home of Donna and Gabby Karan in East Hampton, N.Y. The novel chronicles the struggles of high school misfits in contemporary Pittsburgh, but Sunday’s setting felt more like something out of a modern-day (and much happier) Great Gatsby.
Organized by the Cinema Society and co-sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter and the Samsung Galaxy S III, the party began with a sunset views and settled into a tiki torch-lit night in a backyard on a cliff overlooking Gardiners Bay. The significant celebrity contingent that summers in the Hamptons was well represented at the event, including locals such as Howard and Beth Stern, Brooke Shields and Chris Henchy, Padma Lakshmi, Katie Couric and John Molner, Gena Gershon, Giada de Laurentiis and David Wain.
It was a bit ironic that a movie provided the entertainment, as two of the best-selling recording artists of all time were in attendance: Sir Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand. Other musical luminaries at the soiree included Russell Simmons, Lou Reed and Barry Manilow, who was spending his first summer in the Hamptons, despite having been born and raised in Brooklyn.
With two houses sitting side by side on the property, the evening was divided between dining near the glimmering pool behind the main house and viewing the film in the adjacent backyard belonging to the guest home. After a buffet dinner of grilled vegetables, chicken, pork chops, steak and pasta — accompanied by an endless flow of white wine — guests shifted to a massive ivory white couch that snaked nearly all the way around the deeper second pool.
Shown on a massive screen with its back to the bay, the film projected its deceptively volatile images of the trials of youth, loss, abuse, confusion, alienation and heartbreak. The audience appeared alternatively shaken and touched.
Logan Lerman, who reached deep to bring to life the wide-eyed naivete, surprising insight and secret pain of the film’s 15-year old protagonist Charlie, spoke before the screening. But he was too nervous to watch the completed film, opting instead to emerge from the house only after it ended. That he was able to stay humble in the hours following the screening is a credit to Lerman’s grounding, or at least his acting talent, as he was bombarded with congratulations and well wishes from the affected audience, including McCartney.
The rock legend and his wife Nancy Shevell watched the screening then spent several minutes conferring with Lerman near an ice cream and sorbet cart off to the side of the audience, which filed out and murmured excitedly at the sight of the ex-Beatle. McCartney told Lerman his performance was “brilliant,” which left the young actor glowing. He later continued to accept praise, which he met with an aw-shucks smile and kick at the grass. Co-star Erin Wilhelmi, who did sit and watch the film, also accepted praise from all comers, with an equal mix of gratitude and restrained excitement.
At a pivotal high school party scene in the film, with punks and cutups experimenting with newfound freedoms, Emma Watson, who plays Lerman’s secret crush, tells him, “Welcome to the Island of Misfit Toys.” It opens up a whole new world for Charlie, a loner who had never even been to a party. The wonderland setting for the screening — attended by past generations’ teddy boys, punk rockers, rappers, comedy nerds and radio bad boys — provided a fitting message to the decade’s worth of kids who read the book and the coming decades more who will see the film: Being different quite often pays off.
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Red Sea Film Festival