Perks of Being a Wallflower movie reviews
It isn’t everyday that the writer of a famous novel also has the skillset to write and direct his own adaptation of his book. Such is the case with The Perks of Being a Wallflower, based on the best selling book of the same name. Writer Stephen Chbosky takes a stab at his own material, after a few successful turns as a Hollywood screenwriter, and lead creative on the short lived television show, Jericho.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is entering his freshman year of high school, and despite having a popular sister as a senior, and a brother who was a former football star, is still friendless after his best friend took his own life the previous year. After a rocky start, Charlie quickly finds kindred spirits in the fearless and boisterous, Patrick (Ezra Miller), the beautiful Sam (Emma Watson), and his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd), who sees the promise in Charlie. As Charlie begins to navigate the waters of high school with friends at his side, we slowly dive into his world, and the past that turned him into the shy and thoughtful introvert.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower takes us through a range of emotions. One moment we are laughing at the antics of Patrick, and the next we are cringing at what happens at the discovery of his relationship with a football player at school. It’s things like this that give the film it’s beauty. It doesn’t gloss over the real troubles of teenagers. Most cinema is chock full of teenagers with vapid first world problems, and fail to show the struggle that goes on in the life of a teen. There are times where The Perks of Being a Wallflower shares the sensibility of a film like The Breakfast Club. On the surface you see smiling teens, but once you delve deeper you see dark pasts, current insecurities, and people are unsure of their futures. It’s so easy to forget what it feels like to be at that age, and this film captures the feeling better than almost any teen film to date. Sure, most people don’t have as dark of pasts as Charlie, Patrick, and Sam, but everyone has had their moments of breakdown.
The film succeeds in its efforts so well due to the solid direction of Chbosky who crafts the story with a love that could only be done by the writer of the source material. Chbosky shows a deft hand at directing a broad cast with a variety of different characters. Even though the film is firmly set in the early 90s, Chobosky goes out of his way to keep the film slightly neutral in time to give the film a timeless quality. It is a story that could be told in any decade.
Logan Lerman leads an impressive cast, and anchors the film with a performance that resonates with audience. Lerman exudes a quiet innocence coupled with a striking intelligence. There isn’t something quite right with Charlie, but despite it all, you want to make sure someone is taking care of him. Lerman has shown a lot of promise so far in his career despite his young age, and this might possibly be his best role to date.
Stealing the show at times is Ezra Miller who couldn’t be more different from last year’s role as the murderous Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Miller is charismatic, hilarious, and brilliant as his turn as a high school senior who projects an attitude of not caring. Miller creates a character with a level of confidence that would be the envy of anyone.
There has been a lot of talk about Emma Watson’s first major role since Harry Potter, and she should silence critics, as it is obvious she is more than capable of handling roles outside of the world of witchcraft and wizardry. Her American accent could possibly use a little work, but she handles the role with aplomb. The role could have easily devolved into cliche (much like the rest of the film), but it is instead endearing and fragile.
The rest of the supporting cast all play their roles, standout among them is Paul Rudd as the teacher who shows great affection for a lost student, and pushes him further. The additions of Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Mae Whitman, and more among the supporting cast round the film out to a robust cast that all hit their notes perfectly.
There aren’t many negatives to say about The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Some might not like its slightly disjointed structure, but it fits the mind of its protagonist. The jumbled nature of the film mirrors that of Charlie’s own emotions. If you are a fan of the book, you’ll love the film. If you haven’t read the book, but want a teen movie with a lot of substance, this film is for you.
While JK Rowling negotiates the troughs and hummocks of The Casual Vacancy’s publicity trail, another Hogwarts old girl is making a less controversial, but perhaps more convincing go of life post-Potter.
Emma Watson couldn’t be less like the uptight, bookish Hermione Granger in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the first film in which she has a major role since the great Potter contraption finally shuddered to a halt last summer. She plays Sam, a Jean-Luc Godard girl living in John Hughes times, who would rather be sauntering down the boulevards of a black-and-white Paris than working on her grade-point average in suburban Pittsburgh.
In Stephen Chbosky’s wonderfully observed coming-of-age film, which the director has adapted from his own novel, Sam is just one wallflower in an entire herbaceous border of them. Another, the film’s hero, is 15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman), an aspiring writer with a hesitant smile and Playmobil hair. Charlie arrives at high school nervous and friendless – but then he meets Sam (Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller), an appealing tangle of spiky elbows and repartee. Sensing a kindred spirit, they invite Charlie to a house party, and he slots into their oddball social circle – “The Island of Misfit Toys,” as Sam calls it – with a satisfying click.
As countercultures go, theirs does not have a great deal to counter: Charlie, Sam and Patrick exist at that relatively quiet point in teenage history between the sexual and social networking revolutions. (Like the recent British coming-of-age film Submarine, the time period is never made explicit, although it must be the early Nineties.) They listen to bands like the Smiths and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, record mixtapes for each other, and host Rocky Horror nights at the local fleapit. Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), an irascible young Buddhist with a soft spot for Charlie, tells him: “I’d like to expose you to great things, like Billie Holliday and foreign films,” a line that could itself pass for a Smiths lyric. And yet they still have much to learn: when David Bowie’s Heroes comes on the radio, Charlie and Sam marvel at this unknown, magical piece of music.
American high school movies come in two main varieties; the casually quippy (Superbad, Easy A) and the earnestly drippy (My Girl, Dead Poets Society). The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a decent stab at the latter.
Adapted from director Stephen Chbosky’s own ’90s-set novel, Perks stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, a shy freshman whose school life improves once teen sophisticates Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) befriend him.
Charlie’s voiceover guides us through an episodic story which begins with “1,385 days till graduation” and takes in alcoholism, bulimia, depression, domestic abuse, drugs, heartbreak, homophobia, sex abuse, suicide and unrequited love along the way.
On top of these, Chbosky layers multiple references to music and movies (The Smiths, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’…) These teens don’t crack wise - they’re too busy making affected pronouncements like “I feel infinite” but their emotional rawness will strike a chord with the intended audience.
And if the film doesn’t grate too harshly on adult sensibilities either, that’s down to a great performance from Lerman, who plays an introvert character with charm and vulnerability.
“There are people who forget what it’s like to be 16, when they turn 17,” says Charlie in his closing monologue.
Oldsters, consider yourself warned. For the young and young-at-heart, however, this is a film worth seeing.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” transports audiences to a time when having friends to hang out with on a Saturday night was a godsend, when liking obscure British pop could suffice as the foundation of a friendship and when pretending to be grown up was indistinguishable from actually being grown up. That angst-ridden epoch was, of course, those four hellish years called high school that simply wouldn’t end quickly enough.
And when the film begins, our wallflower, the smart and introverted Charlie (Logan Lerman), is about to embark on what he expects will be his painful and lonely first year. He has no friends or acquaintances and lacks the necessary social skills to win over the strangers of his new institution. When we first meet him, he is every bit the archetype of the loner. But as the film progresses, we find out how and why he got there, and screenwriter, director and author of the original novel of the same name Stephen Chbosky constantly forces us to question our initial conception of Charlie.
Our hero meets the self-deprecating, affable senior Patrick (Ezra Miller), a social outcast but a seemingly self-confident one; he has his own group of friends that proudly embrace their alienation as being from “the island of misfit toys.” Through Patrick he meets the beautiful Sam (Emma Watson), Patrick’s stepsister, whose love of “The Smiths” and vinyl instantly puts her in dream-girl territory. Together they take him to his first party, introduce him to marijuana and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and welcome him into their circle of pretentious friends. For Charlie, it’s a dream come true; we watch as Charlie exalts these seniors, and we see how his own naiveté makes him oblivious to their foibles.
Alas, friendship is not the solution Charlie may have expected; it’s just a window into another complicated world where everyone has problems. The complexities of these friendships reveal themselves in moments of offhand or accidental candor; the movie feels real, largely due to the strong performances of its cast. These modern characters prove surprisingly mature about some issues despite being clueless about others. Though young, they share a deep sense of empathy and openness, and the actors effectively portray their vulnerabilities and desires while showing just how hard they work to hide them.
At times it’s unclear whether Chbosky intends what become cliché motifs. Should Sam’s hobby of standing in the back of their pickup truck while going through a tunnel, listening to loud indie pop, be dismissed as just another requirement of a high school movie, showing us the carefree nature of youth? Or is the film self-conscious enough for these scenes to instead represent the myth that the characters are creating for themselves about how much fun they are having, so that they can look back on these times with nostalgia?
“Perks” walks a fine line, but these hackneyed plot devices tell more about the stories the characters — who grew up on John Hughes movies — try to tell themselves than a clichéd story that Chbosky is trying to sell to the audience. This is not a “Revenge of the Nerds” film; it’s not a simple story about the archetypal wallflower learning to be okay with not being cool. It’s a film about very real and complicated characters who discover each other’s complexities and help each other deal with very difficult situations.