The Good: Interesting characters, Good mood, Excellent acting, Decent direction
The Bad: The realism is somewhat oppressive, Drug use conceit
The Basics: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a well-developed romantic drama that is just about as painful to watch as real life.
When I first moved to Michigan at the end of summer, I went to see The Words (reviewed here!) in the movie theater, which was an hour away, and I saw a preview for The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower looked engaging, but when it came to that closest theater, it was gone before I could get to see it. There are no good art theaters in my neck of the woods. So, it took until tonight to actually get around to seeing The Perks Of Being A Wallflower.
And it is good.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is good, but it is one of those coming-of-age films that hits the nail on the head and portrays a level of realism that is so perfectly created that anyone who had an awkward childhood will find it to not be entertainment at all. If I were still young and disenfranchised, I could easily see how The Perks Of Being A Wallflower would have been one of my favorite movies. As it is, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is one of the great outsider films and ranks higher in my book than The Breakfast Club (reviewed here!) because it is more focused and far less preachy. It is, however, not nearly as easy and it does not strive for humorous, so when it is funny, it gets much more organic laughs.
A pretty solid romantic drama, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower intrigued me because it is set in a weirdly nebulous time where records and audio cassettes are still prevalent, but there are openly gay high school students and mentions of condoms (which I usually associate in the public consciousness as being after the rise of the compact disc, go figure).
Charlie is starting his Freshman year of high school, after having suffered a breakdown his prior year. On his first day as a Freshman, he befriends his English teacher, Mr. Anderson, and is quietly amused by the antics of Patrick (a fairly obviously gay Senior). When Charlie tries to step out by going to a football game, he actually meets Patrick and his step-sister, Sam. Charlie is instantly drawn to Sam and the three of them begin hanging out. Sam shows a protective instinct toward Charlie when her friends give him a pot brownie and he realizes how attracted to her he is when they go to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
While Sam is going out with a loser, Charlie struggles with his feelings for Sam and the effects of the death of his favorite person in the world (his Aunt). As Patrick wrestles with the relationship he has with his closeted boyfriend, Sam haplessly falls into a relationship with another girl in their little social circle (an angry Buddhist named Mary Elizabeth). Despite their mismatched relationships, a love develops between Sam and Charlie that is threatened by her actually getting into the college she wants to (Penn State).
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is good for the way it explores depression, love, youth and mental illness without it ever being so oppressive as to be unpleasant. Unlike something like The Soloist (reviewed here!) where the mood is enough to make one want to die, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower captures some youthful joy and moments when love and life are powerfully and positively explored.
What separates The Perks Of Being A Wallflower from so many other films with youthful angst and/or mental illness, are the characters. Charlie, Patrick, and Sam are vibrant and wonderful characters who are presented with incredible realism. Charlie is a character who is clearly suffering from the very beginning, but his awkwardness seems initially like normal youthful angst. Fortunately, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower goes deeper. Patrick and Sam are likable and vibrant, though it seems utterly inexplicable that none of these young people know “Heroes” by David Bowie! In fact, my only issue with the characters are how they fall into the painfully familiar and obvious conceit of outsiders using drugs. That, to me, is as passé as people who think that smoking at a young age makes them a rebel.
On the acting front, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a wonderful use of some incredible young talent. I laugh at the idea that so many critic touted how Emma Watson’s performance as dramatically different for her. Given that most of us had only seen her in the Harry Potter Saga (reviewed here!), it seemed like a pretty silly assertion to make. Watson is mature and complicated in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and she actually manages to sell the viewer on her character being something other than the smartest person in the room. Ezra Miller steals virtually every scene he is in as Patrick and Mae Whitman (Mary Elizabeth), Paul Rudd (Mr. Anderson), Dylan McDermott and Mary Walsh give ideal supporting performances in that they show up, embody their characters with enough force and dignity to portray them, without ever stealing the light from Logan Lerman’s Charlie.
Logan Lerman, for his part, is great as Charlie. He plays Charlie with an appropriately withdrawn physical presence, but eyes that are always expressive and moving, clearly portraying his character as deeply engaged in the world around him. Lerman makes Charlie seem entirely plausible and real, even when that makes watching The Perks Of Being A Wallflower a little difficult.
On DVD and Blu-Ray, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower comes with two different commentary tracks, deleted scenes, dailies and a featurette. For a romantic drama that saw limited release, this is packaged to the teeth with goodies for the fans.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is an incredible, worthwhile, work about youthful outsiders that is essential viewing.
For other works with Logan Lerman, please visit my reviews of:
What Women Want
For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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