DIR/WRI: Stephen Chbosky • PRO: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich • DOP: Andrew Dunn • ED: Mary Jo Markey • DES: Inbal Weinberg • Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the highly anticipated coming-of-age drama based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Chbosky. The novel has gained almost cult status since its release in 1999. This film adaptation offers us a refreshing new vision as the novel’s author himself takes to the director’s seat. Fans of the hauntingly comedic novel will not be disappointed by Chbosky’s insight with memorable scenes from the book at times outshining their written counterparts.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie, an introverted teen about to make the transition to high school student whilst combatting personal issues. As a fan of Chbosky’s novel, I was somewhat wary of the film, as it was difficult to believe that anyone could perfectly embody the complex personality of Charlie. Thankfully, within the first half hour, it becomes impossible not to fall in love with Logan Lerman. Gangly, awkward and shy but also somehow entirely magnetic, Lerman is a revelation here. So believable is his portrayal that it will doubtlessly be his face that springs to mind the next time I pick up the novel.
Charlie tells his story in a series of letters. As he takes his first tentative steps into high school, he is taken under the wing of two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). From the moment they rescue Charlie by inviting him to sit with them for lunch, we witness the growth of one of the most heart-warming friendships to grace our screens.
Watson officially takes a definitive step away from Harry Potter here as the enthusiastic and effortlessly cool Sam. As we witness Charlie’s growing infatuation, we warm to her. We are even willing to overlook the patchiness of her accent in places. Watson and Lerman certainly steal the show for me, whilst Ezra Miller perfectly embodies the geek-chic ideology that fans have come to love. Here is a high school thriving on outsiders, and Miller is the ultimate outsider as Patrick.
Other stand-out cast members include Paul Rudd as Mr. Anderson, who somehow manages to make the archetype of the inspirational English teacher seem cool, and Nina Dobrev who stars as Charlie’s older sister Candace. In a departure from being chased by mythical television creatures, Dobrev battles her own demons here whilst silently aiding her brother, as their relationship grows stronger.
What sets this apart from other coming-of-age dramas is that it never descends into the total slapstick chaos we have come to associate with the theme.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a rarity in that it is a teen-centric drama that respects the intelligence of its audience. In the same vein as Sixteen Candles, it portrays a new vision of the teen condition. As our protagonist battles with issues like suicide, mental illness and abuse, there is a certain endearing depth here, which takes this story from teen drama to human drama.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a heartfelt love letter to an important snapshot in our lives, and is guaranteed to tug on the heartstrings of even the harshest audience. This is an absolute must-see for anyone who has ever felt the isolation of being a teenage outsider. Anyone who has ever wanted to feel ‘infinite’.
Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is released on 5th October 2012