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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Perks of Being a Wallflower is probably one of the better high school/coming-of-age films that I’ve seen in a while. Based on the novel of the same name, Perks centers on high school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman) who is having trouble fitting in at school. Soon, he meets the brother/sister combo of Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), seniors who are quasi-outcasts in their own right. Charlie begins to fall into their world while attempting to overcome some personal demons from his past.
Much of this movie hinges on the fact that the young actors are incredibly watchable in their roles and have a really good chemistry with each other. The best of the bunch is Watson (which shouldn’t surprise anyone). She displays such an outgoing charm while still struggling with her own self-doubts. This can be a difficult line to straddle as an actor, but she manages to pull it off.
By the way, it is incredibly strange to hear Watson with an American accent.
Ezra Miller is also great as Patrick. Throughout the entire movie, I wanted to keep punching him in the face based on what his character was doing. Trust me: that’s a good thing. In high school and college, I’ve known people exactly like him: acting the role of an arrogant misfit to the highest degree in order to seek attention, but then angrily reject that attention. Granted, his character (and I am sure the people I’ve known) acts this way as a coping mechanism for his own struggles, but that doesn’t make the behavior any less obnoxious. Miller captures that succinctly and makes it work.
I also love a lot of the side-performances in this film. The gold-standard, in my opinion, has to be Dylan McDermott as Charlie’s dad. I’ve been a fan of his for some time, and I just love how he completely throws himself into this bit role. He is totally committed which makes his line deliveries make him much likeable when a lesser actor would have made the dad just seem like a jerk.
While the performances are solid overall, there is really not much of a story at play here. That really isn’t much of a problem – the movie is a character piece. But a lot of the stuff these characters are going through has been seen before in other high school movies. Charlie learns something about himself, and through him, the other characters grow as well. This film has a strong pedigree attached to it – I just wish it did a little more.
There is also a bit of a twist at the end with Charlie’s aunt which feels so incredibly forced that it comes off a bit manipulative. And then the logical trauma that would spring from it seems to be largely glossed over. Had this element been introduced earlier in the film (or even hinted at), it would have played better. As is, no dice.
If you are going in to Perks hoping to see something that will change how you think about life and reinforce your high school experience, this won’t do that. If you want to see some solid performances with some fun dialogue, then The Perks of Being a Wallflower might be for you.