The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 4 January 2013
Category: Reviews Comments View Comments


A tale of high school, and growing up, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower features strong performances by an ensemble cast that results in endearing portrayals and a sensitive exploration of difficult subjects that will resonate with many viewers.

The Perks Of Being A WallflowerThe Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a Bildungsroman that focusses on protagonist Charlie Kelmeckis (Logan Lerman), a young man about to enter his freshman year of high school who is plagued by incidents in his past, and the assortment of people with whom he builds relationships along the way. Chief among them is senior Patrick (Ezra Miller, in a superb performance) and his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson), a damaged free spirit so unlike Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series that memory of that past character immediately becomes a distant recollection - an indication, I hope, that Emma Watson has successfully transitioned into being an actor, rather than someone who has portrayed a character.

The film is based on the book of the same name, by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote and directed this adaptation.

The story is set in the early 1990s, although this is never explicitly stated. Because the characters are so rich and engaging, but also the type of fringe people prone to dramatic integrations of cultural artifacts and fashion from the past into their present in a way that seems natural, it took me a long time to notice that something was "off" for 2011/2 (specifically, about a third of the way through I started wondering why I hadn't seen a single cellular phone - and how refreshing that was to be watching a story in which the characters actually interact in person, rather than relying on technology; that I was watching something about people for a change).

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Then I started looking more closely: mixtapes, vinyl, CRT TVs, landline phones. Each individually isn't necessarily indicative of a cultural era but put them all together and it starts to form. The genius in the production design, costume design, and hair and makeup is that, bar hints, it's all done with a sort of timeless quality that could see this set in any decade from the 1970s onwards. The reason I hadn't initially realised is because this is my generation's childhood - it's all so comfortably familiar that you forget that time has since passed. My hope is that it will still appeal to those who did not grow up in this era, perhaps in a romanticised nostalgia kind of way, as the story it has to tell is important for younger people to experience and identify with.

The Perks Of Being A WallflowerAt first glance this seems to be a story about being (a romanticised version of) an outcast searching for his identity and surviving high school - something to which many people can relate - but as I thought about it afterwards I realised this is not the case. Charlie very quickly integrates into a group that recognises a kindred outcast spirit and offers friendship. The members embrace him. He fits in. He is not alone. The group may be a fringe collection but the people that form it have strong bonds and an identity. The group brings its own challenges and journeys, which offer lessons and growth, but they are far less arduous than being forced to face the world on one's own.

At the time I felt a bit cheated because it all happened so easily - he didn't have to struggle, as so many of us do, with being accepted but at the same time the characters are so endearing and embody so much of what many of us wish we had found in high school that this is forgivable. His struggles, however, do exist, but they take a different form so perhaps the misalignment is just that I was initially expecting something else. To discuss his challenges in any depth would spoil the story but I appreciated how subtly it was done, while all the time alluding to other things, and how it unfolded in a measured, well timed way that kept the plot moving smoothly, but gently, most of the time.

The Perks Of Being A WallflowerThis is really an ensemble piece and features a very strong cast and some familiar faces in supporting roles. Though some actors have very small roles their screen time is precious and very well used except, perhaps, for Paul Rudd as Mr Anderson, Charlie's English teacher who recognises Charlie's intelligence and potential and fosters his learning by supplementing his reading materials with contemporary classics that have a profound effect on Charlie's growth (though this fact is not well portrayed). A nod must also be given to Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth, one of the group who falls for Charlie, and Johnny Simmons as Brad, a high-school jock with an abusive father.

The Perks Of Being A WallflowerThere was only one point where I was pulled out of the experience. The story takes a bit of an emotional dip in a scene in the middle that at the time seems like a cheap shot, unnecessary high-school melodrama, and lazy filmmaking but by the end the threads that this scene leaves are pulled back together and are used to put final puzzle pieces in place that had been drifting off on the sides, almost forgotten. This is very skilled filmmaking, that certainly redeemed my briefly soured opinion, and was one of the reasons that the ending is so satisfying even as it has harrowing moments.

This is a gentle movie about youth, about friendship, about sexuality, about love, about surviving, and, most importantly, about coming into your own as a fully formed young adult better equipped to deal with the world. It's skilfully made with a great soundtrack and wonderful ambient score (by Michael Brook), and impressive performances from some promising younger actors.

In short, it's a delightful, moving piece of filmmaking that deserves appreciation.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is written and directed by Stephen Chbosky and stars Logan Lerman, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Johnny Simmons, Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Emma Watson, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Hagenbuch, Mae Whitman, Erin Wilhelmi, Reece Thompson, Zane Holtz, and Joan Cusack.

The review screening was courtesy of Nu Metro. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower opened on circuit in South Africa on 4 January 2013 and is soon to be released on DVD in the US.

Tags: #lgbti, #screen Opinion
Rating: 8/10
In One Word: Infinity

Key Facts: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Year: 2012
Running Time: 102 minutes
Genre/Keywords: abuse, Bildungsroman, coming of age, drama, gay, high school
Format: Feature; Widescreen 1.85:1; Colour
Language: English
Country: USA

On The Internet
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower: Official Site | Facebook | Google+ | IMDb | Pinterest | Rotten Tomatoes | Twitter | Wikipedia
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Media: Official Site | Tumblr | YouTube Playlist

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower Official Movie Trailer: YouTube link ]

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