Film Review: Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

“I know we’ll all become somebody—we’ll all become old photographs and we’ll all become somebody’s mom and dad. Right now these moments are not stories, this is happening. I’m here and I’m looking at her. And she is so beautiful.”—Charlie

In an interview Stephen Chbosky said he wanted to create a movie that validates and respects what teenagers go through, but also has the capacity to be nostalgic for their parents. He reasoned, “If these two groups can know that they love the same thing, they can talk a bit more, and realize the generation gap is nothing more than a conversation we haven’t had yet.”

And  you do get the sense right away that Perks is not just another movie made for adolescents, but one made by someone who is still very in touch with his adolescent self. The explosive emotions, the drunken, bleary-eyed house party confessions, that sense of longing for something more…they’re all there. And Chbosky’s not just checking off requisite scenes and emotions, he’s telling a complex story with characters that will surprise and frustrate you. Characters you will come to love.

The story is set in Pittsburgh, the year of 1992, and follows Charlie (Logan Lerman) an introvert teenager who has to cope with the recent suicide of his one and only friend along with the death of his aunt, whose memory is evoked again and again, whenever Charlie has a hallucinatory episode.

He’s in a bad place and to make matters worse he has to survive high school (he’s already counting down the days until graduation) but then he meets two seniors, Alex and Sam, who shows him what it means to be alive in the world and to feel things with friends you can call family.

If you’re in the mood to see a goodteen movie this is the one. It has the same heartfelt sincerity found in a John Hughes movie, but instead of the Brat Pack, we have newcomers Logan Lerman, playing the shy yet irresistibly sweet Charlie, and Ezra Miller as Patrick, a scene stealing character who is as drag-queen theatrical as it gets, but whose secret relationship with a football player provides him with considerable amount of depth. No character is two dimensional and although the film rests largely on Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson are brilliant in their supporting roles.

Having spent her entire adolescent on the Harry Potter film set, this is Emma Watson’s definitive role post-Potter. Gone is school-girl Hermione Granger; Watson’s first scene makes that clear. In a close up shot reminiscent of Grace Kelly’s first appearance in Hitchcock’s Rear Window, her face is surrounded by lights and she looks absolutely luminous. This film is very much her coming of age story as well and you find yourself rooting for her. And aside from a brief moment where she stresses about finals and getting into Penn State, she is alarmingly Sloane-like with her red Letterman jacket. (By the way, I had no idea she was such a killer dancer!)

I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll just say this: these characters will stay with you. Chbosky had the rare opportunity to direct and write the script for the book he wrote and he does it with such skill and respect for the medium that it’s hard to believe it’s his first time behind the camera. And its clear that Chbosky’s intention to make this a classic film rather than a generational film is successful. Although it’s set in the 90s, the emotions, scenarios, and dialogue is authentic and able to stand the test of time even though some things must come to an end.

By the way, just to save you some trouble, the song in the tunnel scene is David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Trust me, you will want need to know this.

[Cover photo via digitalspy]

[Photos via guardian, post-gazette]

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