Perks of Being a Wallflower, The
Release date: October 12, 2012
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Book by: Stephen Chbosky
Screenplay by: Stephen Chbosky
Cast: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Johnny Simmons, Dylan McDermott
If I were still in high school, I think that Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being A Wallflower would probably sum up how I thought I felt a whole bunch of the time. Considering I never read the novel though, I’ve got a fresh experience here in my early twenties, and I can’t say it’s one I loved all that much.
Charlie (Lerman) is a naive and reserved fifteen year old who is having a rough time in high school. A group of older students who seem as outcast as he is provide him with the perfect niche, and he quickly becomes good friends with two of them. There’s the eccentric gay, Patrick (Miller), and his step-sister Sam (Watson), who Charlie falls for almost instantly.
Along with all its cute and silly moments, The Perks of Being A Wallflower sure is filled with a bunch of clichés through the first hour or so. Granted, the novel it’s based on was published before many of these indie flick clichés were established, but listening to someone talk about loving The Smiths without ever having heard David Bowie’s Heroes is outrageous.
The film gives these little glimpses of Charlie’s past and his family that actually seem like they would make for an interesting family drama, and it’s unfortunate that they get brushed aside so easily for quite a while. Throughout, there are some solid flashbacks that loosely hinted at past events that affected Charlie’s life, and it’s those moments that keep the interest in him going, especially when it all hits full force with a particularly rough reveal. It’s understandable that they keep the focus on Charlie and his friends because this is a coming-of-age film of sorts, but the emotional impact came much later than it seemed the film wanted.
Chbosky really hits his stride with the film’s last act, where he stuffs a whole lot of emotion into about half an hour. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t seem one bit rushed like many films do nowadays, and Andrew Dunn’s work as cinematographer helps this plenty. One scene in particular, which involves a character breakdown quickly shot from multiple angles, underscores the emotional turmoil and places you right in the character’s shoes.
Logan Lerman does a pretty great job as Charlie, and the best moments come from his interactions with other characters. Ezra Miller plays the stereotypical gay character more often than not, but he has a few key scenes that make for memorable moments. It’s nice to see Emma Watson in a role as big as this after the Harry Potter movies, and she does very well given the role limits.
For all its faults, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being A Wallflower still packs a decent emotional punch and just enough enjoyable moments to make it worth watching.