Insightful, complex, respectful, frank, and funny, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” speaks to the struggle of anyone who’s ever been isolated, whether by circumstance or by society. And happily, it doesn’t presume to tie a pretty bow around the outcome.
This week has been an accidental Breakfast Club Festival. First it factored materially into “Pitch Perfect”, then Jake Hamilton called “Perks” “The Breakfast Club for a new generation,” and now it happened to be on HBO and is keeping me company as I write this.
(Ally Sheedy just spoke of running away, listing the places she could go concluding with Afghanistan, and resounding in my head was Master Pancake’s John Erler booming, “DON’T go to Afghanistan.” Seriously, make it a point to visit the Alamo Drafthouse and see them; they come to Houston fairly regularly and they’re to die for. But I digress…)
“The Breakfast Club” was, well, the “Breakfast Club” of my generation, and the references have been fun. That film reaches into the hearts and experiences of millions, and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” will no doubt do the same. That “Perks” doesn’t reach as broadly is of little consequence; in this case it’s depth that makes it sing.
Here we meet Charlie (Logan Lerman), still bearing open and isolating wounds as he begins high school, when behold one night Fate shines upon him in the forms of shop classmate Patrick (Ezra Miller) and the enchanting Sam (Emma Watson), and soon he is welcomed into their closely knit, offbeat social circle.
The occasions of compassion, loyalty, identity, and hope I won’t spoil here, but suffice it to say that novelist/screenwriter/director (!!) Stephen Chbosky weaves them with thoughtfulness, care, and great skill. While never becoming leaden, he manages to communicate the importance and long-term effects of things ~ be they first kiss, death of a loved one, childhood trauma, or stigma and betrayal ~ in a tapestry of certain resonance (or remembrance, if one has been through them already).
In Chbosky’s hands the performances simply shine, beginning with the superb Logan Lerman (Shia LaBeouf needs to watch his heels), and “Perks” is an excellent transition piece for Emma Watson as she moves toward roles geared for grownups. And of course it’s always good to see Mae Whitman (Lifetime Pass for “Hope Floats”).
The sensation however, bar none, is the astonishing Ezra Miller (I think I’ve used that word twice before), who instantly earned a retroactive Lifetime Pass and hit the Roller Watch. Given that I go into blackout once I decide to see a title, I hadn’t done any inquiry into “Perks”, merely noting that he looked vaguely familiar before dropping the veil; it thus took me about ten minutes to place him, realizing then the magnitude of his “Perks” performance: he tortured Tilda Swinton in the mind-blowing, gut-wrenching “We Need to Talk About Kevin”. So unnerving and deeply unsettling was that performance I wondered with awe how a person draws forth that profound a portrayal without actually being that way (think Edward Norton’s Derek Vinyard Pre-enlightenment), and here he is as the gentlest, most secure of spirits. Roller Research has just bumped to priority status…
For whatever reason you choose it, for however long it lingers, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” will reward.
Great pairing: “Submarine”
If you liked Perks, try: “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”
Story: A teen troubled by loss struggles as he begins high school and is befriended by two free-spirited seniors.
Genre: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Running time: 103 minutes
Official site: http://perks-of-being-a-wallflower.com/
Houston release date: September 28, 2012
Tickets: Check Fandango or your local listings
Screened Sep 25th at the Edwards Grand Palace in Houston TX