[Review] – The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

9 Oct

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Year: 2012
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writer: Stephen Chbosky, based on his own novel
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Nina Dobrev, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Joan Cusack
MPAA Rating: PG-13, mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens
Runtime: 103 min
IMDb Rating: 8.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Metacritic: 67

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the book from Stephen Chbosky published by MTV back in 1999 is one of those novels that, if you read them at just the right time and at just the right age, can have the power of changing your life, at least a little bit. I first read it when I was about 14 or so, and I’ve probably read five or six times since and I will probably read it a few more times again; I just can’t get enough of that story about Charlie and Sam and Patrick. It really has been one of my favorite books for a while now, so when back in 2010 it was announced that there was going to be a film adaptation of it I was really guarded about setting my expectations high because, as most book-to-film adaptations go, chances are they wouldn’t capture what made those pages so special.

I was, however, still incredible excited about the prospect. The production company Mr. Mudd, which counts with John Malkovich as one of its co-founders and has made Juno and Ghost World, set the project up and had the absolute wisdom to hire Mr. Chbosky himself not only to pen the screenplay adaptation but also to direct the whole thing. That to me was a huge thing to get me really fired about the film, he knew these characters, these locations and these events better than anyone, and he’d be great at bringing it to life on film.

Then the cast started shaping up. To be honest I was rather unsure about Logan Lerman as Charlie, the lead character, but I was willing to give him a shot, even more so when Sam and Patrick were to be played by Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, two of the most talented young actors around. Likewise, the supporting cast included Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman and Joan Cusack among others, so yeah, we were covered. Well, I finally got to see this film now and I can’t tell you how happy it made me feel, how faithful an adaptation to such an influential novel in my life it was, how absolutely touching a movie it is and how brilliantly perfect the lead performances by these trio of actors are. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, bias aside, is one of the best films of 2012.

This is the story of Charlie’s life and it works as this wonderfully moving tale of what it means to grow up, not just the nice little things, but it really captures the amazing feelings as well as the devastating ones, it captures young love, young fear, young hope and young friendship, and it captures it all beautifully well. I don’t know if I loved this so much because I already loved the book, but trust me when I say I didn’t go into it thinking I’d love it, I went with my guard up but once it started I realized this would be a damn perfect adaptation, so it definitely did a lot of stuff right.

What this film also gets so right is how it manages to translate all of those emotions with such precision is what the book was also so good at, and that’s the fact that the film, even though it’s obviously set in a place and time isn’t really specific to them, which is why I’m super sure this will be just as touching and make just as much sense to an American in his forties as it will to an Italian in his twenties, it’s just super universal. It’s also a very attentive movie in how observing it is, sensitive to the delicate emotions of teenagers, and one that can elicit this extreme giddiness while never once shying away from the painful times.

No matter what kind of teenage you had you can relate to Charlie and how he feels like an outsider in high-school and how amazing he must have felt when this group of older kids took him under their wing, accepting their outcast-y, non-comformist status. Sam and Patrick are the seniors that invite him to sit with them, Charlie thinks they’re a couple, they laugh and tell them they’re half-siblings, not to mention that Patrick’s gay. It’s amazing seeing them go through these adventures, them getting Charlie to experience stuff he just had to, them putting on performances at midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, rescuing Charlie from a depression and teaching him the real meaning and value of friendship as well as being yourself.

Everything about this is perfect, basically. The book had plenty of shout-outs to books and music and films and this adaptation nails the feeling you had when reading about those references, the coolness of The Smiths and David Bowie, or seeing Paul Rudd’s English teacher, the grown-up who guides Charlie, recommend him The Catcher in the Rye, coincidentally a book that’s often next to this one in bookshelves. Those references are there because they helped those pages and these characters capture that utter urgency that comes with being a teenager and they have that exact same effect in the movie.

Like I said, I wasn’t entirely sold on Mr. Lerman playing Charlie, mostly because I still saw him as Percy Jackson, but he just knocks it out of the park, he gets just the right tone in his performances as this kid who’s trying to move on while still being hurt by things from the past. Then Ms. Watson, now free from her Harry Potter duties (sniff, sniff), is also astonishingly good here, sporting a perfect American accent and making us understand why Charlie instantly falls for her just as she makes it clear she’s a troubled girl herself.

Then there’s Ezra Miller. His performance in Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin I ranked as the 12th best from a supporting male last year and he was also the best part about Sam Levinson‘s Another Happy Day. If you’ve been watching him you know he’s an actor who can really play anything and who can really get to the bottom of his characters. He steals scene after scene here, making this role which could have been played poorly, the gay sidekick who cracks jokes to cover his pain, a thing of wonder. He nails Patrick’s humor while also exhibiting this tender vulnerability that made for a truly outstanding performance.

If you’re a fan of the book then there’s no way you won’t be a fan of that movie, I can pretty much guarantee that. Having Mr. Chbosky adapting the screenplay and directing it was a stroke of genius, as he shows compassion for his characters while always keeping true to them and not once being condescending. Then you have the performances from three young actors who were just perfectly cast here and that get you to understand the trueness to these emotions and to really feel something. I loved this movie too damn much.

Grade: A+

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One Response to “[Review] – The Perks Of Being A Wallflower”

  1. colincarman October 9, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Not as ardent a fan as you are, but it is sweet at times…the problem is that teenagers don’t realistically act like this and the flashbacks are scattered. The sister’s relationship is undeveloped; why show her being slapped if you never pursue her plotline? See my tepid review…great that it didn’t shy away from sexuality. Write on!

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