Friday, July 5, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Movie Review

There are countless scores of movies that have been made based on books, but I can't think of many examples of a movie that was written and directed by the same person who wrote the book. Stephen Chbosky wrote a young adult dramatic novel called The Perks of Being a Wallflower in 1999, and in 2012 released the movie based on his book. I had never heard of the book before, but was captivated by the movie trailer.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a shy teenager without friends that has just started high school. He misses his best friend, who committed suicide, and he writes letters to an unnamed friend describing his feelings. Shortly after school starts, Charlie befriends high school seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his half-sister Sam (Emma Watson). Charlie develops a strong interest in Sam, but lacks the confidence to ask her on a date. Even as he struggles with depression and a haunting past, Charlie is buoyed by Sam and Patrick and several other self-identified  nonconformists, including a sexual steamroller, Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), in whom Charlie finds his tribe and finds himself.
A lot of teen movies I've seen focus on how great it is to be a teenager, how fun it is to have friends, how great high school parties are, and about experimenting with newfound freedoms and exploring themselves. The Perks of Being a Wallflower technically has those sorts of elements in it, but it's much more mature than the usual dizzyingly fun teen movie. Here we are shown how being a social outcast is emotionally taxing on a person. Here we are shown very real and unflattering issues that teenagers are frequently faced with and the often ugly aftermath of those issues. Charlie is pressured into trying drugs, for example, and rather than depicting it as being a fun experiment without consequences Charlie ends up in the hospital, trying to remember what happened without telling the police too much incriminating information. While the movie touches on a lot of difficult issues, it's refreshing in how grounded and realistic it is.
The three main cast members, Lerman, Watson, and Miller, were fantastic casting decisions. I heard that Emma Watson is a fan of the book and was very interested in the role of Sam. She's a very talented actress and it's great to see her moving beyond her iconic role as Hermione in the Harry Potter films. As Sam, Watson plays a  flirtatious but insecure free spirit. She also pulls off an American accent quite well. I've not been all that impressed with Lerman in other films I've seen him in. He was okay in Hoot and in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. He did an exceptional job in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. He is immediately likable, while holding onto some deep darkness that can't be fully revealed until the end.
Miller plays a likable gay teenager who is giddy, comical, and steals most scenes as Patrick. Miller brings texture to the witty and sensitive gay quipster; he's not just a token gay character. Patrick is observant, supportive of his friends, has well defined morals and standards. He is wise to how people behave, and offers advice to Charlie when Charlie is socially lost and confused. While there is no interest in each other beyond friendship, Charlie and Patrick become loyal friends who support one another during painful low points in each other's lives. While Patrick doesn't hide his sexual preferences, it's good to see a gay character who isn't a stereotype and is more complex than the token "gay character."
The Perks of Being a Wallflower novel, which I have since read, is an epistolary book that is made up of letters from Charlie to an unnamed friend. Instead of trying to mimic the book's epistolary voice, we are told this story through the usual cinematic points of view; by way of Charlie's eyes, using voiceover narrations, flashbacks, and a hovering camera that often captures some interesting angles. The book details the battles that Charlie and his friends all fight at school, home, and in their heads. That sort of thing rarely transitions well into a visually based media like movies, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower manages to capture the essence of its source material while tactfully omitting small bits that were less crucial to the plot and character development. I can't imagine anyone who is a fan of the book being disappointed by the movie.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower has a solid PG-13 rating. There are a fair number of scenes that include drug and alcohol use and some sexual references. The movie isn't visually explicit, and manages to address topics of sex and abuse while still remaining safely within its PG-13 rating. I don't think the grittiness and brutal honesty of its themes should deter you from seeing this film, but it's still not something I'd want to show younger audiences.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a good movie. It shows us a very down to earth story about high school life; not a dizzyingly happy or romanticized tale of the teenage years seen through rose-tinted camera lenses glasses . It's pretty dark at times, but retains an optimistic feel thanks to Charlie's wise perception of people. It's an above average independent film, and I think I can say I enjoyed it a bit more than the book upon which it is based, even if it lacked some of the narrative qualities that only a book can express. I recommend seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It's well worth the price to rent, and if you enjoy heartfelt coming-of-age dramas, it's worth getting a copy for your movie collection.

What's your favorite coming-of-age movie? Why do you like it more than others? Comment below and tell me all about it!

Here's the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower:

 What's your favorite coming-of-age movie? Why do you like it more than others? Comment below and tell me all about it!

1 comment:

  1. At the starting of the book the flow is normal(slow) and any one can hope its going to be great aftr the next page .. but that doesnt happen through out the book..
    All are LETTERS & LETTERS ..
    And most of all the author always stars to cry.. !!
    "And i again started to cry".. thats all the book is filled with..