Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: September 21st, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Stephen Chbosky Actors: Logan Lerman, Nina Dobrev, Ezra Miller, Julia Garner, Paul Rudd, Emma Watson, Melanie Lynskey, Mae Whitman
harlie (Logan Lerman) is a painfully shy kid just trying to get through his high school freshman year. He’s creative and intelligent and immediately acknowledged for it by advanced English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd); but he prefers to stay out of the spotlight whenever possible, as if being too smart makes him a target for bullying. He doesn’t divulge his feelings to anyone except his notebook (he’s an aspiring writer and addresses entries as “Dear Friend”) and expresses a desire only to make a good friend for the year. Leather-jacket and alternately sports jacket-clad Patrick (Ezra Miller), the class clown and attention-grabber unafraid of mockery by a spiteful teacher (Tom Savini), is an easy conquest for that friendship; and his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson) sparks an even greater interest – of the romantic kind.
It’s eventually alluded to that Charlie has been dealing with the suicide of a close friend and the resultant flashbacks, visions, and blackouts. His brother is a faddish football player, his older sister (Nina Dobrev) is dating an abusive loser, and his furtive aunt Helen died in a car crash, for which he blames himself. He must contend with pursuing Sam despite her attraction to college guys; he’s also simultaneously roped into a brief relationship with Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), a punk-rock Buddhist who can’t stop jabbering; and consoling Patrick’s uneasy, secretive gay relationship with jock Brad (Johnny Simmons). Even if he can make it through the year in one piece physically and mentally, his befriending of older seniors means he might not see them after school ends and they move on.
The film hopes to impart that these teens occupy themselves with common distractions – SAT scores, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” re-enactments, studying at the library, experimenting with drugs, partying, and drinking. But this is alongside Charlie asking his teacher for advice on romance – and why Sam chooses the wrong guys to date. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” tries to present a strikingly unique viewpoint of high school life by centering on notably peculiar leads and their fancifully quaint activities. It’s the anti-“Superbad” and while singular because of this, it’s also bizarre. So unusual in fact, that at times it borders on surreal. Did this really have confident backing to get adapted into a motion picture (directed by and based on the book by Stephen Chbosky, published by MTV), and what percentage of viewers will it appeal to? Although it tackles the awkwardness of adolescence, it certainly depicts unconventional coping and behaviors.
The film moves fast, gathering together as much dysfunction for Charlie as possible all at once, as if the audience needs a fast-tracked introduction to the antisocial demeanor of the antihero. While he might be a moderately believable (if not too naïve) caricature of teenage bashfulness, Patrick and Sam are completely unconvincing. Conformity tends to attract acceptance while nonconformity draws disapproval – but in this fraudulent alternate reality, eccentricity appears appreciated. And it dwells in large groups of popularly accepted people. These kids’ lives are conspicuously like something out of a movie. The nostalgic, crestfallen, dispirited narration doesn’t help the sincerity either.
– Mike Massie