Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Directed By: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Johnny Simmons, Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun, Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman
While I’ve still yet to give it a read, apparently “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has roots in some excellent source material. Sure, seeing the movie before reading the book takes away the opportunity to imagine the characters as I perceive them, but the casting for this film is so pitch perfect, there’s no one I’d rather spend more time with than Logan Lerman’s Charlie, Ezra Miller’s Patrick and Emma Watson’s Sam.
Life isn’t easy for Charlie. Not only does he have a rather dark past, but he’s starting high school and doesn’t have a single friend there. However, one night at a football game, on a whim, Charlie approaches Patrick, a senior from his woodshop class with a tendency to cause trouble, as he makes no effort to restrain his big personality. Patrick introduces Charlie to his stepsister, Sam, and the two immediately take a liking to him, bringing Charlie into their circle of friends and finally making him feel accepted.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is oozing with high school clichés and has quite a bit of tacky dialogue, but, for the most part, it works in the film’s favor. The innocence of the material matches Charlie’s naivety and the combination creates this overwhelmingly sweet and seemingly harmless environment. However, then drugs, alcohol and some really disturbing scenarios juxtapose that innocence, making “Perks” much more than any other face value high school drama.
Charlie isn’t just your average school nerd. He’s so introverted that it’ll earn your compassion, but also a great deal of pity and concern. You want him to make friends, but there’s clearly something troubling lurking behind those kind eyes, letting you root for him and enjoy his fun, but never get too comfortable. Lerman isn’t some geek in glasses who’s “surprisingly” cute when he puts some gel in his hair; his boyish innocence is enough to sell the outcast angle and some good looks take care of Charlie’s potential in the romance department, but even then, Lerman has to work to sell both angles and it pays off big time.
Miller steps in as a wildly engaging contrast. Not all of Patrick’s material is as funny as it’s likely meant to be, but the fact that Miller owns each and every ounce of it makes it all work to a degree. Patrick is out of control and Miller has no trouble going there, while Watson meets him halfway. Sam certainly has a little Patrick in her and a dance number with the duo proves it, but an extra helping of maturity tones down her behavior, bringing her one step closer to Charlie. As a whole, the trio is different yet alike enough to keep things interesting, but still feel as though they’re the perfect match.
And the casting success doesn’t stop with the leads. “Perks of Being a Wallflower” has a laundry list of famous names and almost each and every one is well placed. After so many episodes of “The Vampire Diaries,” it’s easy to forget that Nina Dobrev is capable of much else, but, turns out, she can strike a nice balance between high school social climbing and having a huge heart. Johnny Simmons doesn’t get very much screen time as school jock Brad, but the part is pivotal to the film and needed to be filled by someone who could show a wide range in a small amount of time. Mae Whitman is another standout as Mary Elizabeth, a member of Sam and Patrick’s group of friends, and one with quite the variety of flare. In the adult realm, Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh make for effective parents, but it’s Paul Rudd’s performance as Charlie’s English teacher, Mr. Anderson, that’s the most memorable. He doesn’t do much more than teach class and hand out books, but his humble connection to Charlie will warm your heart.
Stephen Chbosky doesn’t aim for technical prowess, but he doesn’t need to. As expected, his understanding of the story, the characters and their transitions is all that’s necessary to make the film version work. His camerawork is simple and totally unassuming, letting you experience the story for yourself rather than feel as though it’s being told to you.
And that the beauty of a movie like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower;” it’s done in a way that truly lets you step into the characters’ shoes, specifically Charlie’s. His personality relaxes yet moves you, and you’ll take some of that with you when you leave the theater.