Director: Stephen Chbosky
Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky
Producers: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell Smith
Starring: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Paul Rudd
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 103 min.
Life has sucky moments. It’s just the nature of the beast. Good things happen and then bad things happen but when you’re in high school, it seems like the bad things are world shattering. It probably has something to do with science and hormones and growing up but there’s something inexplicably emotional about most high school movies, be they stoner comedies or hard hitting dramas, that always seem to dredge up some ounce of emotional reaction and if they don’t, and there are a few exceptions, they’re worthless garbage because let’s face it, regardless of whether you were one of the popular kids or one of the library nerds, we all experienced moments of happiness or sadness that have stuck with us over the year.
Stephen Chbosky’s novel-turned-movie The Perks of Being A Wallflower is only the latest entry into the dramedy subgenre of high school movies and it has some good DNA. Chbosky’s novel was much celebrated when it was released in the late 90s and it was adopted by a generation as their book, the book that told their story. In reality, it’s a timeless book, one that ignores dates but somewhat dates itself with music and the now-dead art of the mixed tape.
Percy Jackson’s Logan Lerman stars as Charlie, a teen entering high school for the first time. He’s troubled, suffering from occasional bouts of depression, but he’s hoping high school is going to be better than middle school. It doesn’t begin well but early in the year he makes a friend in a senior named Patrick (the great Ezra Miller) who introduces him to his step sister Sam (Emma Watson) and their group of friends. Together they navigate the ups and downs of high school life and suddenly Charlie forgets his troubles and concentrates on actually living life. He goes out, he interacts with others and pretty soon he even, reluctantly, gets a girlfriend, but things are complicated and on a seemingly normal evening, Charlie is dumped by his overpowering girlfriend and ostracized from the only people who treat him like a normal kid.
Eventually Charlie finds his way back to his friends and the story comes to a relatively happy ending but not before we discover a deep dark secret about Charlie. Those who have read the book know what’s coming and there are certainly hints of something throughout the movie but the reveal turned me off of the book and had a similar effect on screen. It’s an interesting twist but one that feels like an unnecessary reason for Charlie’s depression as if there needs to be an explanation as to why he’s depressed.
Loaded with excellent performances from a superbly talented young cast and with a story full of moments that ring genuine, The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a movie that beautifully encapsulates what it’s like to be young. There are moments of extremes, both happy and unhappy, and moments of feeling complete and in tune with everything and everyone around you. There are some scenes that, more than any others in recent memory, mark this as a movie about my youth: the moment Sam and Patrick hit the dance floor with their “living room routine” after announcing that the DJ is “actually playing good music!” Not to mention the mix tapes, the search for the one song that played on the radio that one time and Charlie’s relationship with his English teacher (it’s always the English teachers).
It’s not perfect but The Perks of Being A Wallflower offers up one of the most authentic and entertaining high school dramas in some time. Prepare yourself: dig out those old mix tapes and get ready for a trip down memory lane; YouTube playlists just aren’t the same as a good cassette.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower opens Friday, September 28th in Toronto and expands across Canada on October 5th.