I Saw A Film Today… The Perks of Being A Wallflower

pobawHigh school, for most people, is a pretty hellish experience. The people in your age group are your heaviest, vocal, and most brutal critics of every thing you ever do. Mix that with the pains of a growing body and a growing sexual and emotional attraction to another, it’s a bloody confusing time of life, often embarrassing. Well, my experience was anyways. That’s why it’s a bit sad that Hollywood has rarely got this experience correct in the so-called coming-of-age film. These films promise the anguish most go through, yet it usually results in some candy coated version or overly dramatic. Thankfully, author and now director Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being A Wallflower sheds most of that coating.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is about to nervously begin his freshmen year of high school somewhere in the North-East of America. With heavy baggage in the form of family dysfunction and the recent loses of his friend and his Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey), Charlie struggles to make friends other than his English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd).

But eventually Charlie is befriended by brother/sister duo Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). Patrick is a quirky gay teen senior who is secretly having a relationship with the quarterback of the football team (Future drama bomb? You bet). Sam is a sweet girl who was once a big party-goer but now less so. Immediately Charlie develops a crush on her.

The two siblings show Charlie a world he has never experienced before. They introduce him to new music, drugs, and other friends who in turn introduce him to sex. Oh, and they also introduce him to the supposed wonders of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But with this new life, new troubles and haunting images from his past plague him.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a rare gem in the way that it is a frank and broad look at the highs and hells of high school. The brush stroke is wide here, ranging from the joys of friendship to the horrors of childhood issues and nearly everything in between. That is quite an accomplishment for a film in this peppered genre of hits and (mostly) misses. But it is not invulnerable to some of the stereotypes and melodrama that are hallmarks of the high school film unfortunately. Perks retains some of the after school special aspects, which lost its appeal in the late 90’s.

I think the greatest contribution to the pacing and success of this film is that Stephen Chbosky took the helm of the director’s chair. Who better to direct this material than the man who created it? After seeing this film I read Chobsky’s much hailed epistolary novel and there really isn’t much difference between the two. Things that were changed were for the betterment of the film and things emitted were mostly unimportant to the story. A faithful reproduction, to say the least.

Logan Lerman is so self-deprecating and fresh in this role as Charlie, which is basically the definition of the average teen, right? It’s quite a growing-up role for the Percy Jackson actor. He evokes sadness and virgin intrigue so effortlessly. Ezra Miller, hot off his stellar performance in We Need to Talk About Kevin, is brilliant. The troubles a gay teen faces, one in the 90’s no less, are portrayed effortlessly portrayed by him. The rejection, the pain, and ridicule are all on display, and Miller never holds back.

Emma Watson disrobes of her Hogwarts uniform and sultrily steps in the role of Sam. She is friendly, caring, but has a past that she is trying to recover from. The character is supposed to be the free spirit, and Watson is. The supporting cast is great too. Paul Rudd puts his signature leisurely manner to work here as Charlies mentor. Scott Pilgrim alums Johnny Simmons and Mae Whitman also do well as the love interest opposite of Lerman and Miller.  Joan Cusack and Tom Savini even make appearances.

I fell in love with Perks. It’s honesty is what has drawn me towards it. Not shying from common “peer pressures” gives life. The examination of a serious mental issue and feelings of inadequacy are main points. Few coming-of-age films truly feel like you’re experiencing someone coming of age. But the three main performers are in their own separate ways coming of age in this film.

Verdict: See it!

*Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight- all involving teens (Really, teen fighting is a rating? Alrighty then MPAA). 102 minutes.

**Perks of Being A Wallflower is available on home media February 12th.

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