Unwavering sentiment – It doesn’t happen often and it rarely pans out, but every so often a film will come along that will take the audience on a ‘life’ journey. These films usually go unnoticed until award time unless a friend recommends it to you, but it’s these what I like to call ‘indies’ that remind us how great Hollywood can be when there’s a good story to tell. And that certainly was the case with “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” an indie that has a lot more to offer than first realized.
The story here…follows the trials and tribulations of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school freshman trying to adapt to his new surroundings. And for Charlie this was harder than most, as he naturally did not interact or make friends with other kids that easily. Instead, he made friends with his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) who sees Charlie as a unique talent and bequeaths a series of historical literature for him to read. But, this was only a temporary fix for Charlie, who craved more, so when an opportunity presented itself to befriend a upper classman by the name of Patrick (Ezra Miller) in shop class, Charlie jumped all over it. The next thing he knew, he was invited into their circle of “misfits,” which included Sam (Emma Watson), Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) and Alice (Erin Wilhelmi). They started hanging out at football games, restaurant’s and even house parties. But, after eating a brownie laced with marijuana at one of these parties, things really started to get interesting, as Charlie not only witnessed a few things he wasn’t necessarily supposed to see, but also revealed some secrets of his own that sort of filled in the blanks of why he was the way he was. It was about then this entire story started spinning, as Charlie started to discover love and all the things that went with it, all the while fighting some internal demons that only got louder the closer he became to Sam.
Who was in it? For most, this is not a recognizable cast, outside a few token cameos by wily vets like Joan Cusack, Kate Walsh and Dylan McDermott. Even Paul Rudd can be grouped in that same bunch, even though I like to think he made more of an impact given the limited screen time. No, this cast was led by none other than Logan Lerman, who also doubled as the narrator. For this critic, this is the first time I have seen him, even though I have watched several of the films he has starred in previously. Maybe that’s because it was his first “breakout” role or maybe it’s because he finally found a part that showcases his talent other than what we saw in “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” Either way, he was virtually flawless in everything he did, often harnessing most of this stories emotion portraying Charlie. I was impressed at all the highs and lows he displayed interacting with this young cast, that one day might be looked back upon as the next generation of actors sort of like the ‘Brat Pack’ from the 1980’s.
That might be a stretch to some, but given what Lerman did along with Emma Watson, don’t be shocked if I’m right. Speaking of Watson, “welcome to the other side of the spectrum,” as this marked her first big role outside her amazing work as Hermione in the “Harry Potter” series. I know for me, Watson was the only reason I went to see this film, so to watch her shine in this role as Sam was a great reward. Because not enough is said about how difficult it can be for those like Watson that have essentially grown up on the big screen and make that transition out of a series that was so popular. It’s still early, but based off what she has done since ending her “Harry Potter” career, she seems to be on the right track. So, while her role might be low profile in a way, her performance was anything but proving the genuine talent that many of us always thought she had, but never saw given the obvious constraints within the “Harry Potter” series.
A personal account – Well, there’s no doubt who gets all the blame or credit when it comes to this film. Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky made sure of that, given “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was based of his very own 1999 novel by the same name. Yeah, that’s right, 1999 and it took the author to get it on the big screen. Sound crazy? Well, it is given how few authors of a book decide to go into film as a director, much less a writer. Sure, plenty of books get adapted into feature films, so that’s not crazy, but the simple fact this film comes from the author of that book some 13 years later is unique. But, to then actually succeed in doing it is even more impressive and unexpected, so I give a lot of credit to Chbosky for believing in his heartfelt teenage story full of all the. Because had he not, I doubt this film covering a host of difficult adolescent topics would have felt as sincere as it did, a hidden quality of most independent films. Add in a classic 90’s soundtrack and this film was a joy to watch and experience.
Bottom Line – “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is not like anything you have ever seen, and yet feels like something you have seen before. Maybe that’s because of the genuine story or maybe it’s because director Stephen Chbosky captured the time period so well, but either way this film tugs on your heart strings in a very big way.
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