Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" may not be an
original film dealing with high school ups and downs, but it could very
well be a very strong addition to the genre. It marks a great
directorial debut from Chbosky, who also wrote the screenplay which is
based on his own novel. It is always a pleasure to see an
author/novelist have the freedom to express his own material in a
different medium, and do it so professionally.
The film centers around introvert Charlie and his struggles during freshman year in high school. Charlie is struggling with making new friends due to personal tragedies which affected him negatively. This may not be new, but in the hands of a lesser director, could make it worse. Chbosky knows what he is doing and fine-tunes his actors to fit his story the way he wants it - raw and real. True to introverts, this movie and Chbosky really get what they're thinking and how they can cope with friends, bullies and tragedies. Chbosky understood the themes and his actors understood the material very well, so this film is not the usual teen film.
The three main actors shape themselves around their characters perfectly. Logan Lerman is great as Charlie in a performance that is emotional, subtle, withdrawn and quirky in places. He really can get intense at moments too. Ezra Miller, who terrified us in "We Need To Talk About Kevin" last year, turns 180 degrees and delivers a likable, hilarious, often touching character in Patrick, who is half the key to Charlie's quest for friendship. The other half is the lovely Emma Watson as Sam, Patrick's stepsister and Charlie's first love. Watson, in her first attempt to shed off her "Harry Potter" image is witty, charming and cute, and still manages to give out a heartfelt performance. She's the kind of pretty girl that all boys like to see, and give guys like Charlie hopes and dreams - and possibly save them, too. Other actors in the movie of note are Mae Whitman as Charlie's first date, Kate Walsh and Dylan McDermott as Charlie's parents and Nina Dobrev and Zane Holtz as Charlie's siblings. They sort of fade into the background once Charlie gets with his friends, but they're there when Charlie has no one, like all families should be. Oh, and Paul Rudd as the likable literature teacher. Makes you want him to be in your class one day.
Chbosky does not stray from the roots of realism. Even though the film may tread familiar teen movie ground as desirable as it should, Chbosky firmly plants this movie's feet into the realistic ground. This film struck a personal chord with me, too. It really touched me as I am an introvert as well since high school, although not as serious and intense as Charlie, I feel him. Some scenes were pleasant to watch, some scenes were intense and brought back many unwanted/awkward memories, and other times it had me thinking even further.
The fact that this film contains mature themes of suicide, homosexuality, drug and sexual content, and still be given a PG-13 rating is nothing short of a miracle. Bottom line is, if you're a teen or an introverted young adult, make sure this movie is on the top of your watch list. This is a great teen film.
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