The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based on the best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky. The people I saw it with had heard of the book but hadn’t read it. I had no idea about its origin so I went into the story entirely cold.
I didn’t expect much based on the previews I’d seen countless times over the last several weeks as the scenes presented looked a bit confused and bland. The movie is anything but that thankfully. What we have is a wonderful coming of age story that resonates an aura of total reality and honesty about the classic tale of weaving your way through those early high school years and the challenges that all of us must overcome or be overcome by.
It stars a fairly unknown Logan Lerman as the lead, Charlie. I last saw Lerman as the older son in 3:10 To Yuma where he did a great job but that’s all I’ve seen him in. Charlie is just entering high school and he brings with him a closet full of hinted-at skeletons that make his journey even harder than the norm. Of course, being the title-referenced wallflower he has difficulty fitting in. We all know that feeling of needing to find a seat in the busy school cafeteria. So much of our future could depend on exactly where we end up sitting that very first day—or so it seems.
He finds a connection with that one teacher most of us can point to that makes a true impact in our our life (a smaller role played beautifully by Paul Rudd) and, more importantly, with the school clown Patrick, played by Ezra Miller (an unknown to me). Miller, if this film is any indication, is a fantastic talent that dominates every scene he’s in and just owns this film. Lerman—as good as he is—pales in comparison even though he’s the star. Patrick then introduces Charlie to Sam (Emma Watson) and he’s immediately captivated by her off-beat free-spirited soul. Watson—a Brit—plays an American teen as if she’s never once left Pennsylvania (the story’s locale).
The chemistry between all the main cast is just spot-on perfect and it makes the entire effort possible. Even the smaller roles shine through with performances that everyone should be proud of. You’ll feel as if they were your own friends at one point or another.
The film will bring you to smile, frown and feel those great nostalgic tugs throughout. While not exactly from my generation, it was still set in a time close enough to resonate with virtually everyone in the theater. I’m guessing it takes place in the early 90’s. Cassettes are still in vogue as are records and there’s a clear lack of Internet and cell phones. The music is also great for anyone who likes songs of that era.
However, there are some oddities here. Some elements of the story are simply—and quite frustratingly—left unexplained. Charlie narrates much of the story via letters he’s writing to a friend but we’re never told who the friend is or if there really is a friend at all (which, quite possibly, could be an important plot element). We also come into another major story arc without enough information and it takes you most of the film to figure out the connections (and still not fully) when there’s no good reason for keeping it so obscured.
All in all it’s a heart-warming, touching, memory-driving film that was a pleasure to see.