The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Review

Film: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Nina Dobrev, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky

Produced by: John Malkovich, Russell Smith, Lianne Halfon

Written by: Stephen Chbosky (based on his eponymous novel)

Music by: Michael Brook

Running Time: 102 minutes

Rating: PG-13

This past Friday night, I was mentally preparing myself to drive home from work in LA’s Carmageddon traffic when an idea struck me: why don’t I just see a movie in one of the theaters nearby in order to kill time, have some enjoyment, and then avoid the brutal rush hour traffic? This was a perfect plan.

Except then I found out my options were limited. The only feasible move from a timing standpoint was to see a showing of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I decided to go forward with this — I was hoping it would be a decently enjoyable, not-overly-cheesy, time-passing teen flick. What I ended up getting was more than I ever expected, and I was incredibly happy with my decision to see this film.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower might seem like a very conventional high school coming-of-age film, but somehow it transcended the cliches that come with that genre. In short, the lead performances were terrific, there was a perfect blend of comedy and drama, and the story was truly genuine and heartfelt.

Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, 3:10 to Yuma) plays high school freshman Charlie, a very intelligent but socially awkward and shy adolescent. Charlie also battles a haunting past, which has seen his best friend recently commit suicide and his aunt — with whom he was close — die in a car accident years before. We find out more about this latter event and Charlie’s overall struggles as the film progresses.

Charlie is thus dreading high school and is very apprehensive in all respects at the story’s outset. Soon, though, he meets Patrick (Ezra Miller in a refreshing non-psychotic-murderer role) and Sam (Emma Watson in a refreshingly non-Hermione-Granger-role), step-siblings who immediately let him join their circle of friends. Patrick describes Charlie as a wallflower, but in a positive light — observant and intelligent. Charlie is touched that for the first time in his life, people are noticing and respecting him for who he is.

Charlie also develops a close bond with his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (the always awesome Paul Rudd). Charlie has an aptitude for the subject and is an aspiring writer, and Mr. Anderson gives him personal reading and writing assignments as a way of piquing his interests and helping him develop his talents. This theme of writing and self-expression is prevalent throughout the film, as Charlie effectively tells us the whole story through letters to an anonymous friend he has never actually met.

Lerman displays quite a bit of talent in playing Charlie. We all know that our adolescent and teen years entail a multitude of emotions. As Charlie, Lerman conveys awkwardness, apprehension, sadness, joy, exhilaration, and, of course, sexual arousal and tension. Throw in the grief and psychological struggles from the haunting events of his past, and we have a character who is feeling quite a lot. Lerman shows us all of these emotions in such a way that is not only believable, but actually makes us empathize in a way. His story is one to which anyone can relate to some degree.

Emma Watson turns in an effective performance of her own as Sam, one of Charlie’s new friends and the object of his romantic desire. She and Lerman have a good on-screen chemistry, and seeing her character bring Charlie out of his shell is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film. Watson — who, if you did not know from watching the Harry Potter movies, is British — also has to put on an American accent for this role. Overall, I thought she did a fine job in spite of a few minor slip-ups I thought were barely detectable. In any event, she plays a multidimensional character whose layers we see come to light more as her relationship with Charlie grows. Thus, these characters are both helping each other reveal their true selves.

As good as Lerman and Watson are, though, I almost feel that Ezra Miller as Patrick stole the most scenes out of anyone. Largely a source of comic relief as a result of his cheerful and jocular nature, he also shows a more serious side (warning – minor spoiler) after the revelation of his secretive homosexual relationship with one of the school’s football players — who wants to hide his homosexuality — leads to a brutal fight and some lingering emotional struggles. However, Charlie and Sam are there for him, once again showing us that they are as important to him as he is to them.

What brings all of these outstanding performances and strong themes together is the creator of the source material — Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky wrote the 1999 novel on which the film is based, and he also adapted his book into the movie’s screenplay. Now, that’s not the first time we’ve seen an author turn his/her book into a screenplay, but what makes this film unique is that Chbosky also directed. Thus, no one can really complain about any mismatches between the novel and film, because the book’s author had primary creative control over what ultimately made it to the big screen. This was evident in how fleshed out the characters were, how moving the story was, and how resonant the coming-of-age themes were.

For me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower reminded me that genuine and heartfelt coming-of-age films can be greatly affecting. I was pleasantly surprised that my mild expectations for this film were exceeded so greatly. If we’re speaking objectively, In my opinion, this movie deserves to be put into the same category as John Hughes’ classic coming-of-age films.

Tommy D’s Score:

 

 

 

 

3.5/4 Tommy Ds

About Tommy D

Clemson and UGA alum with a market research job in LA. And I kind of like movies.

Posted on September 30, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. One of my favorite films of the year because of how it captures all of the painstakingly heartfelt emotions of high school, and just growing up in general. And yes, I did a shed a tear or two. Great review Tommy.

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