The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Movie review
Stephen Chbosky adapts his own novel for the screen.
Screenwriter-author Stephen Chbosky adapted and directed The Perks of Being a Wallflower from his own best-selling epistolary novel. Although the material has been revamped for a more conventional first-person-movie narrative, the opening scenes suggest a project that might have benefited from more critical distance. For starters, there’s the protagonist, high-school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman), an earnest, effortlessly talented writer whose unpopularity we’re supposed to take as a given. The actor’s blandness marks the character as closer to nonentity than wallflower. Then there’s the film’s burnished, Ordinary People look, which is meant to seem nostalgic but—at least as projected in the ongoing-nightmare format of DCP—merely seems pallid. Some shooting styles were made for celluloid.
Even so, Perks slowly but surely bids for teen-classic status, helped along by grimy Pittsburgh flavor and the kind of offhand details that seem lived. (The clique that takes Charlie in regularly performs at screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.) Chbosky has said the story, set in the early ’90s, is autobiographically inspired. If so, real life was a nonstop horror show: The movie begins in the aftermath of a suicide and hinges on past abuse—enough trauma to tip the film’s initial raffish youth-flick sensationalism (lots of booze and drugs) into the punishingly bleak. Still, apart from Lerman, the cast is inspired: Emma Watson wonderfully captures the vibe of a love interest who’s not really available but always around, happy to entertain delusions. And as the flamboyantly out stepbrother of Watson’s dream girl, Afterschool’s Ezra Miller is the movie’s saving grace, hamming it up with a confidence few know in high school.