John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Genre: Drama, Comedy

Director: Stephen Chbosky

Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: September 21st 2012

“I didn’t think anyone noticed me, drug ” Charlie (Logan Lerman), states in the new film “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” after one of his new friends praises him at a party. Charlie, a freshman in high school, began the school year as a loner before befriending two quirky outcasts named Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), who take him under his wing. The friendship of these three students takes center stage in this story about adolescents trying to fit in and find love during their tumultuous teen years.

In 1999, “Perks” was originally published by a novelist named Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky’s book became a huge hit and was beloved by many teens, who found a story that they could relate to in its pages. Over the years, the book has been praised and criticized for its portrayal of what teenagers go through during their high school years. But now, thirteen years after the controversial book was published, Chbosky has served as both the screenwriter and the director of the new film.

The story itself focuses on Charlie as he enters high school as a lonely teen with few friends to speak of. His best friend recently killed himself and Charlie enters the new phase of his life longing for a sense of belonging and for friends who are willing to sacrifice popularity to spend time with an outsider who enjoys reading and wants to be a novelist one day, who qualities that make a person stand out in high school like a swollen thumb.

As a young writer, Charlie notices little things about the people around him. He notices that Patrick, a superficially confident teen who shuns popularity, doesn’t appreciate the cruel nickname that his shop teacher inadvertently gave him. His shop teacher referred to Patrick as “nothing” and while the teen is quick with a retort when students refer to him as such, Charlie realizes that the name bothers his new classmate.

Charlie never calls his classmate “nothing.” He calls him Patrick. And in the world of high school—full of cliques and cruel intentions—Charlie’s use of Patrick’s real name is enough to bring them together as friends. Joining the duo in their misadventures is Patrick’s step-sister, Sam. More free-spirited than the two boys, Sam isn’t afraid to be herself even when it makes her stand out.

Throughout the story, these three experience great friendship, tremendous heartbreak and tough moments that only loners- or former loners- can fully appreciate.

But one of the brilliant aspects of the story is how Chbosky gives his characters the freedom to make terrible, heart-aching mistakes. None of these characters is simply a victim, defined by their circumstances or their high school status. As they get hurt by high school bullies or indifferent relatives, these characters are also flawed in their own unique and (sometimes) naive way.

For those who dread great books being adapted into movies, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is unique in that the novel’s author guided it through the whole process. In doing so, he knew what was important to keep and what was unnecessary. He carries these characters through the sometimes-meandering plot, always understanding who they are and why they act the way they do.

Charlie provides the heart and soul of this story, serving as the guide for viewers who might have forgotten how difficult and complicated high school can be. Like many of us in high school, Charlie is a fragile teen whose mood can change within minutes but whose heart is always stirring to do the right thing.

Much of the film comes down to one simple line: “We accept the love we think we deserve. “Perks” is ultimately about finding the love or the friendships that we truly deserve and recognizing the people who are willing to accept us for who we truly are. It is easily one of the best movies of 2012.

Review by: John Hanlon