We are infinite.
I am using the first paragraph of this review to convince you that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not what you think it is. Throw all you think you know about it out the window. This is not some stupid teenager movie that no adult would ever go to the theatre to see. If you know nothing about the book and you got nothing from the trailer, I am going to assume that you are not going to spend that ten dollars to go to the theatre. From one of the opening scenes, it is obvious that it does not take place in the present. The boombox and the RC cola can on the desk give it away. The book is set in the early to mid-1990s, and so is the film. That’s right, folks. No cell phones, no texting, no Twitter, no Facebook, and no computers. The land line phone is actually used. This film is relatable to those of us in our thirties, and I am going to go out on a limb and say that its portrayal of high school adolescence should remind everyone of something of that stage in their life.
The film focuses on Charlie (Logan Lerman) who is starting high school with no real friends. He has a sister, Candace (Nina Dobrev), but it is not cool for her to hang with her freshman brother. He makes one friend in his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). Charlie is not a total wallflower. He does make the jump to introduce himself to a couple of seniors at a football game. Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) take a liking to Charlie and include him in their group of friends. However, life is not all candy and flowers for Charlie as he still grapples with some lingering issues, and he finds out that his new friends have some of their own.
Stephen Chbosky wrote the novel, and he also wrote the screenplay and directed The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Having spoken to Chbosky, he did not take the task of making his story into a film lightly. Parts of the characters and stories are based on his experiences. This is a personal film. Any other director or screenwriter may have lost the importance of the characters and stories in the translation. With Chbosky at the helm, all that should be there probably is in the film. It shows that he put his heart and soul into this film, making it something that will have an impact on those who see it.
This is not a light teenage comedy. There is comedy, but there are also issues that transcend any time period. There are those who have a rough time being a teenager. Patrick is gay. Everyone knows it. What people don’t know is that the captain of the football team is his boyfriend. Brad (Johnny Simmons) is afraid of what people might think if he comes out, and he is pretty certain his father will disown him or worse. There are other issues at hand, some more devastating and emotional than others.
This is Emma Watson’s first full role in a film after the Harry Potter franchise. She does a great job as Sam. All of the actors did a superb job as their characters. The standouts are Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller. Logan Lerman took on a tough role as Charlie because Charlie is hiding something and also has not had a happy past. For an actor to keep this in mind throughout the character’s journey in the film has to be difficult. There is a vulnerability that Logan Lerman carries in the role. Charlie is a ticking time bomb of emotion, but through his friends, he is able to stave off the explosion. There are not many young actors who could have gone through the Charlie’s journey like Logan Lerman is able to.
Ezra Miller is recognizable from his creepy role as the son in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Seeing him in a completely different role and be the comedic relief is eye-opening if anyone doubted Ezra’s capacity as an actor. To put it mildly, I am blown away by his performance as Patrick. Ezra has some serious issues to contend with in Patrick’s story. Most of them stem from his sexual orientation, and that just makes his high school experience that much worse. He has a great group of friends that accept him for who he is and what he wants to do with his life. To top it off, he is a tad eccentric, but I think Ezra is also. Ezra was overlooked for his role in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but if there is anyone out there is affected by his role and how Ezra plays it, there will be recognition coming his way.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the most truthful looks at what it is like to be a high schooler. God knows I did not have an altogether pleasant experience and could see myself in the film’s characters. Parents, go see this film with your kids. Chances are you both will learn something. Stephen Chbosky said that adolescence is universal in a way, no matter the time period. Teenagers these days just have more things available to them to complicate their lives. No matter your social status in high school, we all have something happen to us during that time, good or bad. Stephen Chbosky took his experience and put it to paper. It resonated with people and I am sure that this phenomenal film will as well.
I give The Perks of Being a Wallflower 5 “Time Warps” out of 5.
P.S. That part of the trailer where Ezra Miller shouts “Be Aggressive! Passive Aggressive!” is not even in the film.
by Sarah Ksiazek