“So, this is my life. I want you to know that I’m both happy and sad, and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”
Every decade has a handful of coming-of-age stories that define a generation and tap into an emotional nostalgia of youth that becomes hazy as time passes. This decade’s coming of age story focuses on a high school freshman whose awkward, shy demeanor has become defined by the heavy past he’s trying to recover from. Like films of years past, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a success at capturing the emotionally challenging rite of passage in our confusing teenage years.
For any doubters of the film, here’s my look into why this film is worth giving a chance…
High school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman) is an introverted outsider with no friends, aside from the English teacher he meets on his first day of school, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). The concept of “fitting in” seems foreign to Charlie after you learn (within the first five minutes of the movie) that Charlie’s best friend committed suicide over the summer, rendering him emotionally distraught. But, it’s when Charlie meets vivacious stepsiblings Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) that his shell begins to break. He documents his experience in letters to an unknown friend as he tells his story.
Audiences may initially be skeptical prior to viewing: it’s based on a novel, which is often a recipe for Hollywood machinations and dissatisfied readers. I’ve never read the book, but according to readers, the movie closely follows the book, which would be any author-turned-director’s intention. It’s a rarity for an author to adapt his novel into a screenplay and subsequently take on the title as director of the film, but that’s exactly what first-time director Stephen Chbosky did.
As for the trailer of the film, like a few movies this year, it’s misleading. In a good way. The trailer presents all the clichés of high school: the loner boy, the cliques, the angst, and the confusion of being a teenager. What the trailer is hiding is the deep-rooted, unconventional issues that most teen movies overlook, or joke their way through in popular comedic fashion—Easy A and Mean Girls are prime examples of this popular trope. But Perks has an emotionally raw honesty that penetrates a core many of us have repressed or forgotten about. This movie took me completely by surprise and off-guard.
An incredible ensemble of actors carries this film first and foremost. Logan Lerman embodies the character of Charlie effortlessly, and it’s hard not to empathize with the character and to genuinely love him. What differentiates his character from those of clichés past is that there’s an intensely dark history behind Charlie that looms around him and is most severe on his “bad days.” But this isn’t a character drowning in his tragedy or self-pity. His motives for wanting to make friends are far from superficial; he wants to proactively make his four years of high school extraordinary, despite his emotional setbacks. His determination pushes him to sit by a comedic senior, Patrick, at a football game, who introduces him to his stepsister, Sam. It’s impossible not to want to root for Charlie; he’s such a likeable character…you want everything to perpetually go right.
And that’s where Patrick and Sam step in to help alleviate the tension Charlie initially felt upon his arrival into high school. Emma Watson and Ezra Miller are charming, compatible and believable from their first scene to their last. Hermione who? Watson has undeniably put Hogwarts in her rear view mirror; following a brief, unmemorable role in My Week With Marilyn, this film puts her on the map. Some critics have noted that this film was stolen by Ezra Miller (We Need To Talk About Kevin). Not only does he serve as brilliant comic relief, but almost steals every scene he’s in. His character and Watson’s both have dark issues of their own that create a connection to Charlie. As Sam says to Charlie, “Welcome to the island of misfit toys.”
The plot spans over an entire year: Charlie’s freshman year, and Sam/Patrick’s senior year. The date falls somewhere in the early nineties, which is never directly mentioned and remains ambiguous. Small noticeable elements of the film demonstrate that it isn’t the 21st century: no cell phones, no computers, and no DVDs; but they do have cassette tapes, and love record players, in a non-hipster way. The time frame of the film mirrors the book, but it also helps maintain focus and eliminate distractions. Here’s what old-school life looked like, here were the problems and this is how teenagers dealt with the world prior to the explosion of technology. There’s a scene where they’re driving in the car and hear a song, which basically becomes their mantra throughout the film, but they have no idea what the song is or who it’s by until the end. There’s no Shazam to solve this problem. But the film contains all the elements of high school that we all can relate to: parties, peer pressure, drugs, alienation, and finding where you fit in the realm of high school society.
Perks is nostalgic, tragic and realistic to the point of discomfort. Films in recent years that aimed to present realistic high school issues in a comedic fashion, like Easy A, resonated with audiences as clever and unique. Perks raises the bar and steps beyond the isolation of the typical “high school genre.” Will this be the next Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, or Dead Poet’s Society? Probably not. But Perks is the answer to the void we’ve had since classics such as those.
20 thoughts on “Why I Love The Perks of Being a Wallflower Movie”
Most of us have gone to high school, so I guess we can all relate to the experience in some way or another. With all the positive reviews, I must watch it soon! I didn’t know the trailer is misleading. Sounds like these are characters the audience can form an emotional bond with.
Great review! This is one of my favorite 2012 films, and I think Logan Lerman gives one of the best leading male performances of the year. Love those gifs by the way.
Lerman was really great, but Ezra Miller just stole the screen. It seems almost like a film faux pas to suggest, but I hope this film gets some sort of recognition from the academy or globes.
I think it is going to be one of my favorites this year as well..can’t wait to see it! Plus, I think the cast is brilliant and since I read the book I’m even more excited about having the author directing and stuff. Oh, just.. you’re so lucky you saw it already!
It’s worth the wait. And it really overrides the teen genre some may categorize it in. I really hope everyone gives this film a chance and sees it!
Definitely will give it a chance, no doubt about it!
Good review Courtney. It’s a beautiful film that touches on it’s subject so well and never struck a false note for me. Wish a bigger audience was going out and seeing this but who knows, On-Demand could really kick-start this flick.
Great review! As someone who read and loved the novel I went into this thinking the worse because of how feel good the trailer seemed. Turns out I was so wrong. It was such a great film and adaptation. Definitely one of my favorites this year.
Great review, I really want to see this one now. Keep up the excellent work.
Fantastic review! I’m definetly going to see this one, I’m not particularly fond of Miller or Watson but the story sounds interesting. What a beautiful gif in the end of the post!
I had absolutely no idea who Ezra Miller was prior to this movie, but he’s fantastic in this role. He was completely likable in Perks and had so much chemistry with the cast. And I immediately shrugged off Emma Watson when I heard she was in the leading cast. I was really disappointed with her small, forgettable role in My Week With Marilyn, so I thought this might be a repeat on a larger scale. I’m an idiot. She has completely disassociated herself with the Harry Potter films, and cemented herself as an actress with extreme future potential.
Great review! I really enjoyed this. Ezra definitely stole the show, that guy is amazing.
I am really looking forward to this movie. Great review! I love what you said about this movie being “realistic to the point of discomfort.”
It really was. I went into the movie practically blind, aside from what I had seen on the trailer. I didn’t read the book, nor did I dig for information about the story prior to viewing. It was a lot to take in.
So glad you liked this. It has to be my favourite movie of the year so far. Plus, the soundtrack was amazing!
It’s definitely been the biggest surprise of the year thus far!
[…] ← The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Tippi | October 31, 2012 · 9:45 pm ↓ Jump to Comments […]
Glad you enjoyed this, but as you’ve seen from my post I wasn’t such a fan. There are a lot of things about it that are great, and I did like it for the most part. If they had left out the key thing that makes Charlie, well, Charlie I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more. I know life isn’t always sunshine and daisies, but I would have quite liked it to be on this occasion.
Great post though, loved the GIFs!
Yeah, that specific “part” you’re referencing to was heavy and unexpected entirely on my end. BUT, I think most coming-of-age stories focus on typical teen problems and gloss over the taboo, uncomfortable topics like that. So I found it disturbing, yet refreshing to see it.
[…] Bottom Line: On the surface Perks came across as a sweet, stereotypical film about teens conquering the ups and downs of high school. I had absolutely no idea what this movie was about prior to viewing. Perks is nostalgic, tragic and realistic to the point of discomfort. Films in recent years that aimed to present realistic high school issues in a comedic fashion, like Easy A, resonated with audiences as clever and unique. Perks raises the bar and steps beyond the isolation of the typical “high school genre.” Will this be the next Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, or Dead Poet’s Society? No. But Perks is the answer to the void we’ve had since classics such as those. My Review […]