The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. IMDB says: “An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world. ”
I went into this film with zero expectations because I hadn’t heard much about it. I knew it was a book, but I never read it. I saw Emma Watson dancing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in promotion of the film, but still had no real inkling of what the film was about. I hadn’t yet seen a preview, but by putting context clues together, I assumed it would be a high school drama in the vein of Charlie Bartlett or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. While The Perks of Being a Wallflower has some of those qualities, the film is in a class all it’s own.
The film is about Charlie. He’s starting high school and he doesn’t really have any friends. He goes through the school days quiet and to himself, until he meets Patrick and Sam, who take him in as one of their own. He goes through your typical perils of a high school teen, but Charlie’s are a bit different. He has a murky past that he tries to hide, but when it comes to life, it starts to effect not only him, but his friends too. If I say much more I’ll spoil some plot points, even though some are predictable, so I’ll leave my synopsis where it is. Okay I’ll add just a snippet more: I was VERY excited and happy to see some Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque shenanigans.
The introductions of the characters feel like real life introductions. There are times when Charlie (Logan Lerman) is hesitant to meet someone new or is awkwardly thrust into a conversation with someone new, and all of it is relatable. We’ve all been in those situations before and we’ve seen these scenes in film before, but none feel so natural like the introductions and interactions in this film. What helps build that chemistry and relatable interaction is the fantastic performances by Emma Watson (her American accent is pretty solid), Logan Lerman, and an incredible Ezra Miller, who adds a flamboyant flexibility and emotional cadence to his role, creating one of my new favorite film characters. The supporting cast is packed with familiar favorites like Paul Rudd, Tom Savini, Mae Whitman, Johnny Simmons, Dylan McDermott, Nicholas Braun, and Joan Cusack, who all give great performances, no matter how big or small their role happens to be. The soundtrack is very awesome. Michael Brook has a great score that emotionally compliments the many songs in this film by artists such as David Bowie, The Smiths, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Cracker, Galaxie 500, and Sonic Youth. Even if you don’t see the film, the soundtrack is worth picking up.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. I can’t recommend enough seeing it in theatres and then buying the DVD/Blu-Ray and watching it over and over again. But the film isn’t all comedy. It is more of a drama and it deals with its subject matter in a very real way. There is no hints or subtle suggestions. There is no hearsay or recants of someone else’s story. It’s all right there. For me, having gone through a lot of what Charlie is dealing with–his feelings, actions, murky past–it was hard at times watching this movie because I saw a lot of myself. And as I rolled a tear here and there through the terrific performances, I couldn’t help but want to get up and somehow hug the guy and tell him things get better. That it’s perfectly normal for you to feel the way you do and be lucky you have these friends and a support system around you that loves you. For me that support system, outside of my family, has been the French Toast Sunday crew. From the first podcast, to every time we hang out, they are always there and are always incredibly supportive of not only me but of each other. It’s an incredible group of people that I am so fortunate to know, so fortunate to be apart of, and I cannot thank them enough for everything they’ve done. I love them all very much. Go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower and take the time today to thank your friends for always being there.
Unlike Nick’s admission in the companion review that he went into the movie with no expectations having not read the book, I’ve read it several times and went in with a chip on my shoulder. The trailer seemed to sugar coat the intense, emotional and smart story that I used to devour again and again in Stephen Chbosky’s 1999 novel of the same name. I wasn’t really happy with the casting of Charlie (Lerman) or Sam (Watson), afraid that they had gotten the roles because of their status. I happily admit that I was completely wrong about my preconceptions and this film was one of my favorite I’ve seen this year.
This film has three great things going for it that pay off in spades. The first is that the original material is so well done and rich in content. I didn’t think the film would be able to represent the story justly and it may not translate to the screen as well as my worn paperback. Instead, the story of Charlie and his freshman year of high school adapt wonderfully. It was pretty spot on to the tone of the novel, hitting all the events described in the book exactly without plodding through a check list of plot points. Perks captures a time not only in adolescence but also in the early 90’s which works even better on screen than it did in the novel. Being able to hear the soundtrack and see the styling of the characters were vivid to experience compared to the descriptions in the novel.
That success is easily found in the fact that Chbosky adapted the screenplay and directed the film. For someone who’s biggest filmmaking experience seems to only be adapting the musical Rent and working on the short-lived show Jericho, he did an exceptional job. Not only was he able to fluently take his story from the page to screen but the direction was quite beautiful at points and always solid.
Of course, the performances are what ultimately make this film fantastic. Lerman plays Charlie with intensity and vulnerability, obviously showing he had a very firm grasp on the soul of his character. He could execute Charlie’s bluntly humorous moments alongside his most psychologically devastated ones. Watson made for an interesting Sam and showed great potential (Hermione, Sam is certainly not). The actor who stole the show was Ezra Miller though. I don’t remember Patrick standing out quite as much in the novel, but Miller makes his character shine. He is immensely talented and showed incredible range giving what I consider one of the best performances I’ve seen this year. The three leads are surrounded by a more than capable supporting cast. Mae Whitman deserves a special shout out as the hilarious riot grrrl-ish character Mary Elizabeth.
This novel has always held a special place in my heart and I’ve always held it on a pedestal. I never would have managed a movie adaptation would do it so much justice, but this film brings it to life perfectly and I find myself hard pressed to think of anything I would change. I already love this film and am so happy Chbosky was able to do it right, actualizing his vision as he intended.
FTS SCORE: 85%