The Perks of Being Wallflower is refreshing and heartfelt tale, adapted from the book of the same name, and also written and directed by the novel’s author, Steven Chbosky. Set in the ’90s, the film follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), who has just started his freshman year of High School. Socially awkward, isolated and struggling to find his place in the world, he befriends a group of older kids, who embrace their status as outsiders. The film focuses on Charlie’s experiences of the pitfalls and melodrama of adolescence, along with his new-found friends, which includes the flamboyant Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his free-spirited sister, Sam (Emma Watson).
The Perks of Being a Wallflower covers a range of themes such as sexuality, homophobia, drug use and mental illness, which are interwoven within the lives of teenagers. The film’s strong themes are combined with the nostalgia of the ’90s. We are given everything from Dexy’s Midnight Runners to the Rocky Horror Show. Amongst the nostalgic elements, the film nicely encapsulates the experience of being a clumsy, awkward teen, and Charlie is a relatable character that is easy to sympathise with and root for.
Just like the novel, the film is told through Charlie’s letters which he addresses to “Friend”, so he also provides a voice-over throughout. We are positioned with Charlie as he journeys through school, struggling to make friends, until he meets Patrick and Sam at a High School football match. As he is assimilated into their group of wallflowers, we see Charlie start to outgrow his insecurities, becoming more accepting of himself. His new friends contribute to his changing outlook on life. However, there is still that sense that Charlie’s still vulnerable to self-destruction and Logan Lerman plays the character marvellously. Lerman is perfect for the role, and he beautifully captures the introversion of the character from the novel.
Also, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson are near-perfect choices for their respective roles. When I read the book a second time after watching the film, it was hard not to visualise the on-screen portrayals. Miller’s Patrick may be cliché, as he does occupy the stereotypical gay best friend role, but he is still really fun to watch. On the other hand, Watson’s Sam is both a strong female character, with goals and college aspirations, but yet bestowed with a pinch of vulnerability. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a light-hearted and uplifting film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it does have some emotional and quite dark moments that take you by surprise.
Although inferior to the book, as the film does not quite capture the same magic and spark, it still comes pretty damn close. Also, the film is not filtered with an abundance of teenage parties and profanity. Although they do appear, it is nowhere near the same level as what you would find in a raunchy teen comedy. So, in this regard, The Perks of Being a Wallflower would appeal to older audiences who might just find themselves singing along to the David Bowie featured soundtrack.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a very enjoyable coming-of-age drama, providing an honest representation of both the joys and quarrels of adolescence.
Film Quote: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
Directed and written by: Stephen Chbosky
Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Run Time: 102 min
You might be interested in my other reviews of coming-of-age films, which you can find here