film review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)No Comment
I have to admit, when I first watched the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower I was fairly non-plussed. Coming-of-age dramas aren’t really my thing. Not that I have anything particular against them, they just don’t fill me with excitement.
Given that, I wasn’t really expecting anything from Perks. At best I figured it would be an mildly entertaining diversion for an evening. How wrong I was.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a clever, sweet and touching addition to the well-trodden genre. I wouldn’t really go so far as to say it’s… different in any way, more that the writer has paid attention to some of the things that have caused the genre to become a little stale of late.
What stands out is that the Stephen Chbosky, director and author of the novel is film is based on, goes that bit further when it comes to drawing the characters for us. Too often I’ve watched high school films that rely very heavily on us recognising the stereotypes. Weird kids are weird kids, jocks are jocks, sluts are sluts, they’re never real people. Perks has all of the usual collection but it gives them unexpected depth. I cared about these quirky confused kids and their troubles.
The story is focused on Charlie, a shy emotionally troubled boy entering his first year of high school. We don’t know much about him except that he’s had some serious (but unrevealed) issues in his past that he’s hoping he can leave there. He soon meets Patrick and Sam, step-siblings and, as you might have heard in the trailer, the misfit toys of the school. New school, new friends, new start. So far, so typical. Indeed when the familiar jangles of The Smiths crashed in, I had a little chuckle to myself. What a cliché.
In a sense, it’s the clichés that keep the story together. The film hits the usual high school coming-of-age plot points but it’s that simplicity that allow Chbosky to fill in his characters. We all know what’s going on here, so seeing his character react and interact in those familiar situations builds new levels on their personalities.
Perks doesn’t shy away from the raw emotional lows that can permeate the teen experience either. Luckily for Chbosky he has a young cast that can handle it. Logan Lerman handles Charlie’s damaged and delicate character with a mature and subdued sensibility while Ezra Miller is a delight as the flamboyant but insecure Patrick. Even in a small role Mae Whitman impresses, as does Melanie Lynskey. Emma Watson I was slightly disappointed by… but that wasn’t so much a function of her performance, which was excellent, more that her character I felt just wasn’t as sharp and well defined as the others.
For such a clever and sensitive film I did think that it struggled a little in the end. I, for one, loved the end but we are rather unnecessarily blindsided by it. Thus, it ends up being dealt with rather quickly. I do feel as though they could have taken a little time out of the middle act of the film and given us more time to sit with the ending, I’d be reading fewer reviews where people are complaining about it…
That is but a small complaint about a film that I loved. Unexpectedly The Perks of Being a Wallflower made me laugh, it made me cry and it made me think… I can hardly complain at all.
P.S. Except about the use of David Bowie’s Heroes. You’ll know why when you see it