Cool, sentimental, and melodramatic coming of age.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Director: Stephen Chbosky (The Four Corners of Nowhere)
Screenplay: Chbosky, from his novel
Cast: Logan Lerman (the Three Musketeers), Emma Watson (My Week with Marilyn)
Runtime: 1hr 42 min.
by John DeSando
In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie (Logan Lerman) is sixteen and an introvert in a central-casting high school with babes and bullies and a post modern touch of gay. In addition, pot-filled brownies, Rocky Horror sing alongs, and child abuse dot the dramatic landscape, eluding the extreme realism accusation with a semi-sweet nostalgic look at high school.
The charm of Perks is in writer/director Stephen Chbosky’s cool and sentimental notions about coming of age, emphasized by Charlie’s voice over and his low-key but at times disturbed recollections on his way to maturity. It lacks the more mature disappointments in (500) Days of Summer, the silliness of Sixteen Candles, the humor of Ferris Bueller, and the out-there of Napoleon Dynamite.
On its own merits, it has nothing like those to make it memorable except an appealing Charlie whose arc is not overdone—he just gets a bit wiser as anyone in those years would be if he’s aware enough and has the good fortune to fall in love with Emma Watson (playing elusive girl friend, Sam). Throw in some serious childhood trauma , and you still have a melodrama of no great import, just the story of a boyish introvert who happens to be a boyishly good looking actor, Logan Lerman, and his new, eccentric friends, headed by loveable Sam.
Is it formulaic? Yes, but in the service of known teenage behaviors not too far from a serviceable Hollywood reality. Do bullies harass him? Yes, but less than in other clichéd films. Does he fall in love with an unattainable girl? Yes, but he doesn’t madly pursue her because his mind has other more substantial demons. Is he the brightest but quietest student in his English class, Yes, but we all know the price to pay if you answer English teacher’s questions right, so his reticence is strategically acceptable although he is so reserved you might initially question him as the protagonist of any film. Is his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd), tuned into him? Yes, but in one of the most realistic ways I have seen.
This is not the hip Breakfast Club or Risky Business. Yet, it does have its charming perks.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org.
He also appears on Fox 28’s Man Panel and Idol Chatter
Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com