'The Perks of Being A Wallflower' was a very popular young adult novel that reflected many peoples' high school experience.
Like so many good things, someone wanted to turn it into a movie.
It is 1991, in Pittsburgh. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a shy boy who is just starting high school. His best friend had committed suicide the year before and Charlie has had trouble dealing with it. As a result, he doesn't have any friends and has trouble making new ones. Charlie has ambitions to be a writer, which are supported by his English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd).
He eventually befriends a few seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and her step brother Patrick (Ezra Miller). Charlie develops strong feelings for Sam though he isn't confident enough to let her know how he feels. He is also afraid of ruining the group dynamic that he has become a part of.
In a few short weeks, Charlie has gone from anxiously counting down how much longer he must be in high school to how much longer he will have his friends around.
This is a rare case of a book's author being able to write and direct the film adaptation. Stephen Chbosky makes sure that the movie doesn't deviate much from the original story. Wheras the novel was told via a series of letters that Charlie writes to an unseen, unnamed friend, the movie only touches on this flourish a few times, and very briefly. That was probably a wise choice.
More is dealt with here than some shyness and teen melodrama. Very weighty topics are tackled including homosexuality, drugs, suicide, abuse, the death of relatives, bullying, and depression. There is more to Charlie's emotional fragility than is initially revealed and it all comes out by the end.
Some have compared this to a modern day John Hughes film. There are some moments where this could be the case, but this is generally less light-hearted than his most beloved works. This has the poignancy but is missing the broad comedy which helped to cast a wide net in terms of appeal. Maybe the book spoke for a generation of disaffected youth, but it's hard to see this adaptation making the same waves. It is better than the most other films of its ilk, but it's hard to replicate success like that.
The big knock is that outside of Charlie's pining for Sam and the overwhelming sense that he could emotionally relapse at any moment, there isn't much in terms of a plot. We start at the beginning of the school year and outside of a Christmas gift exchange and a dance or two, there are few events to orient us throughout the school year. The rush is the big problem when trying to condense nine months into a little over an hour and a half. There are also scenes which, while cool and important, seem to be a little emotionally heavy-handed. Yes, here is looking at you, tunnel scene.
All of the 'kids' are solid in their roles. Emma Watson's involvement really earned the headlines and is a huge selling point for 'Harry Potter' fans. She proves that she is capable of playing a character that is more grounded in reality. Miller's Patrick character happens to be gay, but though a little flamboyant at times, he is hardly a walking stereotype.
There are some impressive names who are given very minor roles. Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Joan Cusack, and Tom Savini are all present, to varying degrees. Even Paul Rudd's Mr. Anderson, while a valuable motivator for Charlie and occasional source of sage advice, is confined to his classroom.
Special features include: commentary, a best summer ever featurette, some dailies, and deleted scenes.
Overall, 'The Perks of Being A Wallflower' is a very mature coming-of-age tale. It goes places where other teen movies don't have the guts to and handles some sensitive subjects tastefully. There are no easy answers to be found here which is refreshing.
At the very least, it has the ability to spark some sense of nostalgia for a high school experience where a well thought-out mixtape could say more to that special someone than anything else.
Add an extra half star to this rating.
Rated PG-13 102 minutes 2013