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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER: Reviewed by Marques Wayne


As a fan of Stephen Chbosky's superb coming of age epistolary I was extremely nervous about the prospect of adapting it to film.  I knew upon reading it that Chbosky was a screenwriter and was actually surprised that it took so long to come to fruition.  I was glad that he had adapted the novel himself, but what made me nervous was the fact that he was also directing.  I worried that he might be too close to the material not to make an over indulgent film that would get bogged down by vanity and lose what made the book so special in the first place.

Fortunately, I could not have been more wrong.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower uncannily captures the tone and nuance of the book in a way that is rare when converting material from one medium to another.  The experience of watching the film was almost eerily similar to what it felt like to read the book (which I have done multiple times).

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a gentle, sensitive teen with the innocent, yet haunted, eyes of someone forced to see very adult things at a young age.  He is just starting high school, and after recently losing his best friend he's hurting for new ones, cautiously trying to connect with new people and eschew his reputation as a 'freak'.  In Shop class he meets Patrick (an engaging Ezra Miller), a senior, who is somewhat of a class clown earning the moniker "Nothing" after a cheeky interaction with the teacher.  Patrick, not afraid of letting his own freak flag fly, isn't put off by Charlie's demeanor and introduces him to his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson), who Charlie instantly falls for.  The siblings take Charlie under their wing and he quickly becomes a  part of their close-nit group of friends.



Paul Rudd (always a welcome face) plays Bill, an English teacher that picks up on Charlie's potential and starts to give him more advanced books to read and report on outside of class, cultivating a special relationship with him.  At one point in the film Bill explains to Charlie that we "accept the love we think we deserve."  This theme runs through several of the relationships depicted in the film including Sam's relationship with her boyfriend and the complicated relationship his sister Candace (Nina Dobrev) has with her boyfriend Ponytail Derek (Nicholas Braun).

Charlie's journey has its fun moments, like the group's performance at the Rocky Horror Picture Show sing-along and tripping on pot brownies, but there is also heartbreak and heartache, felt by, and caused by, Charlie himself.  Lerman couldn't have been more perfectly cast as the put-upon boy with the forlorn expression that just makes you want to hug him.  And in addition to strong turns by Miller and Watson, Mae Whitman (NBC's Parenthood) is wonderful as Mary Elizabeth, a bossy feminist that Charlie briefly dates.


The book and the film are set in the early 90's, but Chbosky purposely understated the period references instead opting to give the film a timeless quality like memories trapped in amber, which also matches the novel.  The result is a gem of a film capturing the murky journey of adolescence to adulthood in a way that will resonate with those going through it and those of us who survived it.

                                                                   9/10 Stars *********

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