There are few high school-set films that treat its leads as if their problems are as serious and equal to those profiled in adult films, such as American Beauty, without descending into buffoonery. A beauty has finally arrived in the form of the novel-to-big-screen journey of author Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
First, few movies manage to capture the spirit of a book as fine as the movie that features the first major post-Potter role for Emma Watson. Second, screenwriter-director Chbosky has crafted a powerful piece of filmmaking whose arrival immediately secures a place on our 2012 Top Ten.
We say it captures the spirit of the book, but you know what else? The Perks of Being a Wallflower brings the viewer back to younger days, regardless of the era. Our story takes place in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s, but it doesn’t matter the locale or time in many ways. It’s all about the story and it is one that grabs you from the instant the lights go down.
The big revelation in this film is its star, Logan Lerman, who portrays Charlie. He is a bit of a misfit who has a solid family who loves him, yet emotional demons daunt him as he enters high school as a freshman.
Charlie is taken in by two seniors and their posse, Watson’s Sam and Ezra Miller’s Patrick. Once Charlie begins to make friends, the film’s emotional rollercoaster hits the highest of gears that does not let off until the credits roll.
Lerman handles the entire film-on-his-shoulders pressure with the resolve of an actor twice his age. Movie Fanatic expects great things from this actor as his career progresses. We already know that Watson can bring the thespian thrills, but who knew she could so nail being an American teenager? Her accent is flawless and frankly, her performance should launch the UK actress into a whole new level of consideration for adult parts.
The film is impeccably cast. Nina Dobrev shines as Charlie's sister while Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh are perfect parents. Supporting actress Mae Whitman is fantastic balancing her character's many moods. The role of Patrick had to be the most difficult to cast. He is flamboyant, yet deeply scarred. In the hands of Miller, let’s just say this: Stranger things have happened than a relative unknown garnering an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor with the type of work that this actor achieves with his Patrick. There are nuances and there is what Miller has turned in -- a spectrum of emotion wrapped in a tour guide of what’s awesome about the early 1990s.
We would have to go back decades to find a cinematic story told about people who are between the ages of fourteen and eighteen that packed the same punch as The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The Breakfast Club and Dead Poet’s Society come to mind, but time may be even kinder to Chbosky’s homage to his upbringing.