Saturday, October 20, 2012
Stars: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman
Director: Steven Chbosky
Steven Chbosky brings his coming-of-age novel to the screen as writer and director of The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. The central character is Charlie, (Logan Lerman) a high school freshman with some unspecified mental problems (the bulk of which are revealed near the end) that cause him to be so shy that he won't raise his hand in class when he is the only one with the right answer to the teacher's question.
The story is set in an unspecified time, but we see Charlie, who wants to be a writer, pecking away on a manual typewriter, so we know the era is pre-internet. (In fact, it is the early nineties.)
As an incoming freshman, Charlie doesn't know where he fits in, but step-siblings Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam, (Emma Watson) a couple of other misfits, come to his rescue and befriend him. Patrick is gay and still in the closet. Sam has been around the block some for her age, and her thing is that she picks the wrong guys to get attached to. But they are both good dancers, and much of the process of learning to navigate one's way through the perils and the pitfalls of high school is played out at teenage house parties where Charlie eventually gets his back up off the wall and ventures onto the dance floor. Then, being the total innocent he is, unwittingly consumes a pot brownie and becomes a much more interesting conversationalist. (While the energy kicks into gear with some great eighties tunes like "Come On Eileen" and "Don't Dream It's Over.")
Charlie is developing a thing for Sam, but it's that unrequited love of the painfully shy, who always seem to end up with someone less appealing but more accessible, as when he gets involved in an awkward pairing with punk rocker Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman).
Ezra Miller gets a "A" on his report card for his work in this one.
But there are things about The Perks Of Being A Wallflower that feel slightly off-kilter. Maybe it has something to do with the age of the actors. At this writing, Logan Lerman is 20, Ezra Miller is 20, Emma Watson is 22, and Mae Whitman is 24. All just a bit past their sell-by dates to be totally believable as high-schoolers.
But I really think it's because The Perks Of Being A Wallflower wants so terribly to be precious and poignant, and tries too hard to convince us that it is, and as a result its affectation is showing. Sort of like a figure skater with a lot of potential who hasn't quite mastered the art of making it look effortless.
The movie wants to be in the same class with similar themed classics like The Breakfast Club and American Graffiti. But it isn't.