‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ — A Timeless Story of Adolescent Hell

Last weekend, I went to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower with a few of my close friends.  I had just finished reading the book–the author, Stephen Chbosky, acted as screenwriter and director of the adaptation–and, even though I was prepared for the emotional trauma experienced by all the characters in the film/book, I was blown away by the raw power of the film.  It was, by far, one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had at the movies–and I’m the girl that cried throughout the first half hour of The Hunger GamesPerks shows high school as it is: an unrelenting sphere of awkwardness, with occasional fun thrown in.  While many high school movies fail to take teenagers seriously, in Perks the problems the characters have are treated with respect, no matter how small they may be.  High school hasn’t been represented like this since The Breakfast Club.

The film follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), a quiet high school freshman, as he navigates the complicated social waters alone.  He, quite literally, has no friends in school other than his senior sister, Candace (Nina Dobrev), and his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd).  But then, he meets Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), two misfits who embrace him and expose him to a life of parties and music and fun.  I won’t spoil anything else for you, but, needless to say, each character has their dramas.

Patrick, played brilliantly by Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin), is daring, sarcastic, and, perhaps, the most optimistic of the group.  He is also in a secret relationship with a closeted football player who stands by and watches his friends make fun of Patrick everyday at school.  Ezra Miller truly is a standout, and his character never failed to incite love from the audience.  Patrick’s warm embracing of Charlie when they meet is extended to the audience, making him a true comforting presence throughout the film.

Then, there’s Sam, Patrick’s step-sister/the love of Charlie’s life, played by Emma Watson (fresh off her run as Hermione in the Harry Potter films).  Emma Watson surprised me: the eyebrow acting that plagued many of the early HP films was completely absent, and I never once thought of her as Hermione.  In this film, she was able to escape being type-cast and she got the opportunity to show the world that she can play a real person with real problems.  Her accent, however, could use some work, but I’ll leave that to the more trained ears to study.

That said, everybody in the cast was amazing.  Paul Rudd was wonderfully subtle as Mr. Anderson–I mean, who doesn’t want a teacher like Paul Rudd?–and Melanie Lynskey was a great choice to play Aunt Helen.  Mae Whitman (who plays Amber on TV’s Parenthood) was nothing short of perfection as Charlie’s first girlfriend, Mary Elizabeth–she somehow made Mary Elizabeth’s aggressive and needy personality charming.  And Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) was heartbreaking as Candace, Charlie’s older sister, though her character could have been much more interesting.  In the book, Candace has a very dramatic story line that was cut out of the film, but, she would have needed a film of her own for it to really be told correctly so I think that it’s absence here is for the best.

As the lead, Logan Lerman gave the performance of his career (which includes the Percy Jackson series and 3:10 to Yuma).  Charlie is constantly plagued by sadness and anxiety, and, therefore, he is always afraid that his emotions will become too overwhelming.  That kind of fear of oneself is so painful, that, if nothing else, it needed to be done honestly.  And Logan Lerman played it perfectly, there was never a moment that he let the audience forget that something wasn’t quite right with Charlie.  Harkening back to his days as a sensitive tween on the short-lived TV series Jack & Bobby, Logan Lerman was quiet and uncomfortable, expressive, but not overly dramatic.  And, he built up Charlie’s anxiety so slowly, that his eventual bursts of emotion felt unavoidable as opposed to dramatic ploys.

Writer-director Chbosky has done something remarkable with this film: not only is it an excellent portrayal of teenagers, it is also incredibly beautiful.  Told from Charlie’s perspective with a stunning subjective camera, the movie truly immerses the viewer into Charlie’s head.  It is impossible not to be moved.  Everybody should go see this movie, especially teenagers.

Did you see it?  Did you love it as much as I did?  Don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments!

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