REVIEW: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

16 12 2012

PerksIt’s rare that a high school movie captures the full range of experiences one can have in that crucial period, and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” covers all the bases with ease.  The movie, adapted by Stephen Chbosky from his own novel, saunters at a casual mosey that allows us to take in every moment and appreciate its importance.

In a sense, it allows us to get into the character of protagonist Charlie, played wistfully by Logan Lerman.  He’s the eponymous wallflower, a passive yet perceptive observer taking it all in his freshman year rather than actively seeking to fulfill his desires.  We go from feeling sorry for him as he struggles to find acceptance on his first day of high school to quickly frustrated … because we know the easiest way to put an end to those woes!

Thankfully, Charlie stumbles into two fantastic friends before our annoyance reaches walk-out/turn-off levels.  First, there’s Patrick, an extreme extrovert who says exactly what’s on his mind no matter how inappropriate it may be.  Ezra Miller plays him with such a fantastic gusto that it’s impossible not to be drawn in by his magnetism.

Miller also sheds a tremendous light on the private shame that the very public characters struggles with: the relationship with football player Brad who won’t acknowledge the flamboyant Patrick in the halls at school.  This storyline is arguably the most compelling and dramatic of the film, especially since Miller and fellow rising star Johnny Simmons play it with such high stakes and tense emotionality.

Come on Eileen

Perhaps more importantly though, Charlie meets Patrick’s stepsister Sam, played by Emma Watson.  She’s a beautiful soul who truly cares about helping Charlie find happiness and friendship, a gentleness the actress conveys marvelously.  In her first major post-“Harry Potter” role, Watson shines brightly.  It’s only a slight variation on Hermione Granger, but she’s totally embraceable here as a less prickly version of her well-known character.  She provides the film’s most touching and tender moments, ones that set the tone for the rest of the film.

These moments recognizing the transcendent fleetingness of love and happiness in high school are rare, yet they wind up setting the tone for “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” in its entirety.  Too often, it falls victim to a sort of Nicholas Sparks-esque elegiac fatalism.  Though there are plenty of moments of ebullient joy punctuating the rather sober and plaintive moments, we don’t get the full entertainment value out of them.  Seriously, I felt like something tragic was about to happen in nearly every scene.  But something else does happen in those scenes: an earnest and poignant tribute to high school, in all of its glory and squalor, is exuded.  B+3stars

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