Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Theatrical Review)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Drama, Romance, 102 minutes
Directed by Stephen Chbosky
Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller

When the trailer proudly stated that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was from the producers of Juno, I found myself wishing that it had the same writer and director too. But after seeing the movie, I'm more than happy with what I was given. Stephen Chbosky wrote and directed, and he has captured the same feeling that some of the best teen movies of the 80s (The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller, Heathers) had, and has probably improved upon them.

Perks feels more like a combination of Dead Poets Society and Stand By Me than some of the pure comedies from that era, but it has an abundance of funny scenes mixed in with the more serious and reflective observations. In short, it's a mature look at what teens have to go through. Everybody who has lived through their teen years will identify with this movie.

We see the world through the eyes of 15-year-old Charlie (Lerman). He's about to start high school and he's terrified that he won't be able to make any friends. His nightmares appear to be confirmed until he joins two students at their table during lunch. They are a little older than him, but seem sympathetic to his plight.

Minor spoilers follow, but nothing that isn't revealed in the opening minutes of the movie:

His two lunch companions are Sam (Watson), who is an outgoing girl and seems very sure of herself, and Patrick (Miller), who has already caught Charlie's eye by playing pranks in class. Charlie thinks they are a couple, but Sam is in fact Patrick's half-sister. Charlie likes both immediately and quickly becomes smitten with Sam. Patrick is flamboyant and we learn that he's gay. The friendship between the three is the very heart of the film.

The themes are not exactly original, but definitely a part of growing up. You'll see the agony of young love, drunken parties, experiments with drugs, and deeper emotional problems that most young people face at one time or another.

Another major theme is the importance of music. One scene involving the three friends features a drive through a tunnel in which they discover an unknown song on the radio. It's one of the key scenes in the movie. Not only does it capture a feeling associated with youth, it also highlights the difference between Sam and Charlie. He's shy and reserved, while she has a free spirit. We see Charlie develop throughout the movie and try to recapture that feeling. I did feel old for a moment when I realized that younger people might not know the music of David Bowie, or would consider the music of the Cocteau Twins old.

The movie touches on deeper themes that would not belong in a pure comedy, but they just add to the richness of this wonderful story. Fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show will be pleased that a couple of the scenes touch on the influence of that movie and play a part in the overall story.

One thing that I was interested to see was the performance of Emma Watson. I did catch her small role in My Week with Marilyn, but this was the first time I had seen her in a major role since the Harry Potter movies. When you know an actor for one role in particular, it can be difficult to imagine them as anyone else, but I was impressed with Watson's performance. Although I still recognized some familiar gestures and expressions, she wasn't Hermione Granger. She's very believable as Sam.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower surprised me considerably. My teen years seem like a lifetime ago, but the movie took me right back to those formative years. I was on the verge of tears several times and laughed often. What more could you want from a movie?

One of my close friends will love this movie. Especially a scene in which someone claims that music sounds better on vinyl.

Overall score 5/5

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  1. Good review Steve. It’s a beautiful film that touches on it’s subject so well and never struck a false note for me. Wish a bigger audience was going out and seeing this but who knows, On Demand could really kick-start this flick.

    1. Maybe it's considered too girly for some? I will buy this as soon as it is released. It took me seven weeks to get around to seeing it, and I only did that after hearing a friend praising it.

  2. Great review, Steve! Really want to see this one.

  3. Great review, Steve. This is my favourite movie of the year. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it, too.

    1. Yep, I can't wait to buy it. I guess you will remember it as the first review you ever got published :)