The Perks of Being a Wallflower
dir-scr Stephen Chbosky
prd Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell Smith
with Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Mae Whitman, Johnny Simmons, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Joan Cusack, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Hagenbuch, Reece Thompson
release US 21.Sep.12, UK 3.Oct.12
12/US Summit 1h43
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Can I have this dance? Lerman and Watson

miller rudd whitman
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Adapted by Chbosky from his own novel, this clearly autobiographical teen drama has such recognisably realistic characters that we can't help but be taken back to a pivotal time when the future looked bright. But it seemed impossible to get there.

In the early 1990s, Charlie (Lerman) is a smart, quiet teen on his first day at high school, humiliated that his only friend is his English teacher (Rudd). Then he's spotted by the outrageous Patrick (Miller), who never censors himself to fit in. Even better, he has a smart, beautiful stepsister, Sam (Watson). As the three become inseparable friends, Charlie is intimidated by Sam's sexual experience, and instead falls into a relationship with another offbeat friend, Mary Elizabeth (Whitman). But he only has eyes for Sam.

The film's central theme, explicitly spoken more than once, is that we accept the love we think we deserve. And this is probably because we know the extent of craziness that we hide from everyone around us. Yes, as the film goes along, it deepens from a comedy into a serious exploration of how experiences (including tragedies) make us who we are. And perhaps the most meaningful observation along the way is that we are unable to choose our pasts, we just have to make the best with everything we've been through.

Lerman holds the film with an understated performance that catches Charlie's passive approach to life. And as he starts learning how to feel emotions properly, we learn more about his troubled past, as alluded to in the opening scene. By contrast, Whitman's Buddhist punk is superbly sparky, and even more impressive are the natural turns by Watson and Miller, who make a great duo with their feisty, funny, sexy energy.

With very cool musical choices, Chbosky creates a warm, cute, witty tone that sometimes feels like a nostalgic fantasy (they give each other the most thoughtful Christmas gifts imaginable). But along the way we share Charlie's sudden jolts of emotion, from the sight of Sam kissing a nemesis (Simmons) to a friend committing suicide. But it gets darker still, grappling with some complex and intense psychological and social issues. And the way the characters confront these themes is both resonant and provocative.

cert 12 themes, language, sexuality, drugs, violence 5.Sep.12

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall