“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Review
By Caroline Gay | Staff Writer
October 9, 2012
Among a plethora of cheesy and superficial movies aimed at a teenage audience, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” shines through as a genuine and heartfelt film in the genre.
Adapted from the beloved novel by Stephen Chbosky, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the story of the experiences and personal transformation of a young boy named Charlie (Logan Lerman). The movie starts off the day before he begins high school as a freshman and follows him through the ups and downs of his ninth-grade year.
As could be deduced from the title, Charlie starts as somewhat of a loner who sits quietly on the fringe of life. However, against all odds he meets and and befriends two seniors, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), who throw him head-first into the social life of high school. Through experiences with his new friends (who are self-proclaimed “misfit toys,” though they ironically are very connected into a large social network), he feels both first love and crushing hardship, as well as beautiful moments of awe at being young and alive, or “feeling infinite,” as Charlie articulates during the film.
Logan Lerman makes for an adorably awkward wallflower while Emma Watson shines in the role of sweet, caring and spontaneous Sam. However, Ezra Miller steals the spotlight during much of the film as the theatrical and jesting Patrick, whose playful banter keeps the theater’s audience convulsing with laughter throughout the film.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” manages to achieve something few high school-set movies do, and that is universality. Though the majority of viewers will be able to identify with the characters because they are close in age to Charlie, Patrick, and Sam, older viewers alike will be sure to enjoy the film for its raw honesty, genuine exuberance, humorous characters, and palpable emotion—or if all else is lost on them, at least they can feel nostalgia for the age of going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and making mixtapes, as the characters do in the film.
Refreshingly, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” portrays the ever-popular “coming of age” theme in a less sugar-coated, abundantly more realistic and mature fashion than is typical of your generic plot. It is substantially more relatable to teens who don’t feel represented fairly by the shallow and bubbly or brooding and “emo” stereotypes often assigned to the age group. It also provides depth for adults, who will appreciate that it is not “just another teen movie.”
Because “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was a book before a movie, there was concern that the movie’s interpretation would either ruin the novel in a way that upsets die-hard fans, or it would be an awkward transition from book to screenplay that leaves even new viewers uncomfortable after seeing it.
With most book-to-movie transformations this seems somewhat inevitable “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” not only avoids both, but doesn’t even come close to making these mistakes. As a reader of the book, I can affirm that the quality and feel of the book are almost perfectly represented. Further evidence that it is not an awkward adaptation came in the amazement and praise from my friends (both male and female) immediately after the credits began rolling, who had not read the book beforehand but still emerged from the theater so appreciative of the movie that they were in a daze.
Audiences can be assured that the author’s message was preserved in the making of the movie because the director and writer of the screenplay is none other than Chbosky himself. Chbosky has significant prior screenwriting and directing experience, which ensures that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is not like the aesthetically disastrous movies that have been historically produced by author-turned-directors with no film experience.
At the beginning of the movie, I was slightly worried about its somewhat slow pace. But as the story continues and the pace speeds up, it becomes clear to the viewer that the slow beginning has been put in place intentionally to provide a contrast that further highlights the transformation of Charlie as a person who is quiet and passive to someone who learns the value of “participating” in life.
One criticism I have of the movie is that some events from the past—such as the stories of Charlie’s aunt and his former best friend—that are seemingly important to the character’s personality, though not vital to the plot, get breezed over. This has the end result of leaving some viewers’ understanding of what happened rather murky.
One word of warning: the movie is rated PG-13, and though some parents may feel comfortable with taking youngsters along for other movies of this rating, I would suggest bringing younger elementary-age children to another movie instead because of some party scenes, overall mature themes, and controversial topics that appear in the film.