Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Nina Dobrev
There have been so many coming-of-age, high school dramas that you could write a book about what characteristics to expect; you need an intelligent but vulnerable lead, who has a friend that will also be an unobtainable love interest, loveable & sometimes ignorant parents, and you need an adult character that our young adolescent can form a friendship with and who will help our lead in their time of need. Throw in an alternative rock soundtrack and a story that takes our lead on a life-affirming journey and you’ve got a movie. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (referred to as ‘PBW’ for the rest of this review) adheres to some of these standard features but injects enough originality to make it feel fresh.
PBW is based on the book of the same name and is written and directed by the book’s author Stephen Chbosky. The story follows Charlie, a loner with a damaged past who has just started in a new school. His only friend is his school teacher until he meets senior Patrick and his stepsister Sam. Patrick and Sam take Charlie under their wing and welcome him in to a world of fun and laughter.
For a high school drama to be successful you need to get the performances from your cast and PBW doesn’t disappoint. As Charlie, Logan Lerman is outstanding; he manages to make Charlie someone you can identify with and therefore make an emotional connection with very quickly. Meanwhile Ezra Miller proves his exceptional acting ability by playing Patrick, a character so far away from his chilling turn in We Need To Talk About Kevin that it’s hard to believe the same actor plays them.
There’s no denying though, that the real revelation in PBW is Emma Watson. Within 10 minutes you’ve forgotten about those lackluster performances in Harry Potter, which made her name, as Watson proves that she is the one with the potential to go far after the Boy Wizard franchise. Likeable, intelligent, vulnerable but flawed; Watson is astonishing as Sam and almost manages to walk away with the film despite having the smallest role of the 3 leads. But the film is strongest when they’re all together, the chemistry is seamless between them and it turns these potential stock characters in to a group that is much more relatable; they are people who you want to root for.
Yet, it is not the acting that is the main reason for PBW’s success; it’s in the genius of Chbosky’s interpretation of his own source material, because even if PBW does contain the stock elements of the coming-of-age drama it manages to blend them with real-life issues in a subtle but effective way. The content is handled with delicate care and while one of the issues that is raised during the films final act is thankfully something only a few of us will have faced, it is presented in a way that is accessible & emotional without being melodramatic.
Of course, there are times when it does drop one-to-many cheesy lines that admittedly make you inwardly groan; the “we accept the love we think we deserve” line being the one that sticks in the memory. But this is something that all high school films, no matter how good, will suffer from at one point. And when the same film can boast superb performances and has the ability to be both funny & serious while remaining effective & believable, what’s wrong with a bit of cheese?