The Perks of Being a Wallflower Movie Review
Spikier than the average coming-of-age movie, this astute comedy-drama is packed with memorable characters and resonant situations. It's also strikingly intelligent, refusing to accept Hollywood's fake moralising as it grapples with big issues from mental health to bullying. And even better, it's funny and sexy.
Set in the early 1990s, it's the story of the painfully shy Charlie (Lerman), who plans to blend into the background as he starts high school. Scarred by an emotional event in his past, the only new friend he makes is his English teacher (Rudd). Then his sharp wit is spotted by the colourful Patrick (Miller), an anarchic gay teen who doesn't care what people think. Patrick also has a sexy stepsister, Sam (Watson), who takes a liking to Charlie as well, and soon they become inseparable friends. Well, until Charlie loses his nerve to ask Sam out and ends up in a relationship with her friend Mary Elizabeth (Whitman) instead.
After some less-than-thrilling lead roles (such as Percy Jackson or last year's Three Musketeers remake), Lerman finally comes into his own here with a sensitive, intelligent performance that's nicely underplayed. He also has terrific chemistry with Watson and Miller, whose feisty, hilarious love of life fills every scene they're in. They make such a strong trio that we are deeply moved by each rocky shift in their friendship. And Whitman brings a sparky energy to her scenes as the Buddhist punk with a bracingly honest approach to whatever happens.
The central theme is stated several times: we accept the love we think we deserve. And as the story continues, we identify vividly with the way each character tries to adapt their internal craziness to the world around them. This means that the film shifts as it goes from a perky comedy into a much darker emotional drama. This transition feels natural and raw, allowing us to connect to some seriously big issues, even if there's perhaps too much clever nostalgia from first-time writer-director Chbosky (adapting his own novel for the screen). But then, this also means he gets to pack the film with cool songs.