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Teen movies come of age

THIS has been the year of the sequel, the blockbuster and the wallet-busting franchise ... but amid it all, one quirky indie flick is fast becoming the year's sleeper hit.

Based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is already being hailed by critics as the best coming-of-age film in ... well, an age.

So far, the signs point to global box-office success. The film was produced by the team behind the Oscar-winning Juno; in it, Harry Potter star Emma Watson waves a resolute goodbye to Hermione Granger. As an added bonus, its smouldering star Ezra Miller -- all cheekbones and wolfish glances -- is being touted as the next Robert Pattinson.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower isn't the only teen flick that we can look forward to. This week also sees the release of Lenny Abrahamson's latest flick What Richard Did, a story revolving around a group of posh teenagers in Dublin. But this is no Made In Chelsea-style navel gaze: rather, the action unfolds as one of its members lashes out at a party, leading to a tragedy. And next week, yet another hotly anticipated coming-of-age opus hits Irish screens as Kristen Stewart steps out of the Twilight shadow, to star in the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac's generation-defining masterpiece On The Road.

Even on the small screen, some of the best TV in months is of the coming-of-age variety. Chris O'Dowd's semi-autobiographical Moone Boy (Sky One) shuttles us back to Roscommon in the 1980s for a truly charming look at teenage life in small-town Ireland. And on the same channel, Kathy Burke's Walking & Talking relives with glee the halcyon days of being young, carefree and living on a London council estate in the late 1970s.

At a time when the movie industry is racked with uncertainty, the coming-of-age movie has held strong and it's no secret as to why -- there is so much to be mined from the exquisitely painful time that is adolescence.

Teenage years are an enchanting, exhilarating, haunting time. From the uncertain jock and the secretly angst-ridden popular girl to the resolutely square nerd and moody Goth, we can relate to most of these types.

The real beauty with teen movies is that it's all so familiar. The problems faced by teenagers are universal and make for even better viewing from the relatively safe distance of adulthood.

The teen movie sprang out of the post-World War II baby boom generation. Never before had teenagers been respected -- or even recognised -- as a group in their own right. Yet from the moment that Marlon Brando uttered 'Whaddya got?' in The Wild One (1953), it became clear that there was plenty of grist for the teen angst mill.

Already, there is a pantheon of films that will most likely resonate down the years. Here are the ones that amply demonstrate the perks of being young, dumb and waiting for adulthood to come.


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