The Perks of Being a WallflowerCultureCinemaMovie reviews
If you think another American high school teen drama is not for you, think again about The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Although there are familiar elements in this film – an awkward teen joining a group of misfits – there are deeper and more complex layers to this. Set amidst the American high school genre now also familiar to Brits through film and TV, this story could easily be transposed here or elsewhere, as it is about young people already burdened with the flaws they inherit.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower cleverly makes itself unspecific in time (it could be set at any point in the last few decades); the only give-away is that the teens make each other mix cassette tapes to express their feelings. Whether or not kids still do that, we imagine after seeing this film some might think it’s a good idea and start it up again.
Music plays a large part in the film, as it does in the lives of teenagers – remember when you discovered a kindred spirit over a shared taste in bands? To them, good music is old music, so they play The Smiths, David Bowie and Dexys Midnight Runners.
Logan Lerman, recently seen as the lead in Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief, plays the awkward Charlie, unable to make friends at high school. Logan is handsome in a baby-faced Paul McCartney way, and cringingly brilliant at expressing the inability yet longing to make friends – or participate, as he calls it. Everyone else seems to know what they are doing while Charlie tags along, awkward and innocent, inadvertently taking drugs and acquiring a girlfriend. We feel for his small triumphs, and remember those intense teenage feelings when he says: “I feel infinite.”
We know early on some things have happened to Charlie before the film starts. They are gradually uncovered to us throughout the action, as more devastating repressed memories threaten to destabilise his world. Violence and worse are the threatening undercurrents to wrong choices, and the film gradually uncovers the reasons why people seem to make the worst choices of partner. Everyone must learn the lesson that we accept the love we think we deserve.
Emma Watson must be the main curiosity in this film, as everyone wants to see whether she can outgrow Hermione, the part in the Harry Potter films we saw her grow up in. Here she plays Sam, a girl with a past. Again in a trio with two male leads including Sam’s step-brother Patrick, played with charismatic assurance by Ezra Miller, Emma Watson is convincing in the role, and endearing as the introverted Charlie’s first true love.
If you have ever been a teenager, or if you are one, you will see yourself here in the best and the worst bits of that time. Friends are everything at that age – it’s how you discover yourself.
There are some deeply funny moments, especially around relationships: suddenly finding you are someone’s boyfriend without realising how it happened, and not having a clue how to end it, or even realising that you are allowed to.
Adapted and directed by Stephen Chbosky from his own novel, this is a film that makes you want to seek out and read the original.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is released in cinemas on 3rd October 2012.
Watch the trailer of The Perks of Being a Wallflower here: