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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

2012 | 103 min | PG-13 | 1.85:1

The Perks of Being a Wallflower


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User reviews

2 user reviews

Movie appeal

Coming of age62%


Theatrical release date

 21 September, 2012
 03 October, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Screenshots from The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, September 27, 2012

It’s a rare event to find an author not only writing the screenplay adaptation of his own work, but directing it as well. It’s a heavy workload for Stephen Chbosky, who attempts to make the nuances of his book, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” compute on the big screen. Although gifted a trio of inspired performances from the lead actors, “Wallflower” is a muddled creation blessed with unique emotional sincerity, yet cursed with loose ends and poorly defined characters, huddled into a precious creation that might test the patience of those with a sensitivity to effusive teen melodrama. There’s enormous insight into the adolescent mind, yet Chbosky is hopelessly disorganized, creating a film of sporadic significance.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a painfully shy teen entering his first year of high school. With aspirations to be a writer, Charlie finds a patient teacher in Bill (Paul Rudd), but lacks friends his own age. Curious about seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), Charlie manages to work his way into their outcast social circle, with his naiveté registering as charm to the gang. Falling in love with Sam, Charlie is afraid to share his true feelings, watching the troubled girl enter a relationship with a college student, while Patrick struggles with his homosexuality, trying to make sense out of his secretive relationship with the school’s football star. As the year passes, mistakes come to haunt Charlie’s life, triggering cryptic visions of a deceased aunt (Melanie Lynskey), pushing the boy to the brink of madness for reasons he doesn’t initially understand.

“Wallflower” is actually two separate films vying for the same screen space. For the first half, the feature engages in a semi-formulaic coming-of-age story, following Charlie into the battle zone of high school, where he encounters all types of bullying and hallway indifference, trying to keep a low profile as he figures out a plan of attack with class socialization. While there’s ample time to understand Charlie’s apprehension, Chbosky wisely speeds up the introductory process, solidifying the dynamic the boy shares with Sam and Patrick quickly, commencing the true education of the story as the freshman is welcomed into a world of senior attitude, drugs, and relationship woes, embarking on a union with punk zine publisher Mary-Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) to help water down his crush on the tempting but elusive Sam. “Wallflower” crosses familiar ground, yet does so with a special sympathy for Charlie and his quiet kindness, getting to understand his eager generosity and how his timidity endears him to his newfound batch of brash friends, who accept the teen as they engage in house parties, wield sarcasm like sledgehammers, and perform in the town’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” midnight movie extravaganza, which, of course, acts a potent symbol of personal expression and self-awareness for the characters.

The other side of “Wallflower” is much darker, though less defined. Charlie is a boy with a cluttered headspace. We learn of a friend who committed suicide a year ago and we witness fleeting glimpses of a mysterious aunt, a vague figure who comes to play a critical role in the movie’s climax. Having never read Chbosky’s book, it’s always difficult to comprehend just where the story is heading, finding some of the hallucinatory elements shaped like “Donnie Darko” outtakes, hinting at funky narrative directions that never materialize. “Wallflower” can be greatly confusing and unsatisfying, especially when it labors to weave Charlie’s psychological disease with his freshman anxiety, throttling the tender human aspects of the story with half-realized mental fissures. The aunt subplot is a key component of the novel, yet seems entirely alien to Chbosky’s feature, wedged into the script to please fans of the source material -- a practice the director abuses to a point of exhaustion, leaving the supporting cast more of a blur than a crucial, colorful community for Charlie to observe from a safe distance.

Pieces are missing in the “Wallflower” narrative, along with a concrete sense of time, with the film using cassette mix tapes and enormous cell phones to sell the possibly mid-1990s setting, while the cast displays contemporary hairstyles and costumes, causing needless distraction where total concentration on screen woe is required.

The cast, led by Logan, is extremely capable. Miller is a standout here as the highly theatrical Patrick, skilled at communicating the disturbance underneath the character’s impulsive personality. The young actors are well suited to express these broken-hearted matters, assisted by Chbosky’s love of music, utilized here to express tricky emotions and act as wings for Charlie’s philosophical ideas. Although the soundtrack is scenester Velcro (with songs from The Smiths and David Bowie), the atmosphere is boosted by the tunes, helping “Wallflower” find a sorely needed focal point.

Plot turns pile up in the third act, watching Chbosky rush through events, fearful of leaving anything of importance out. Missing is a natural flow to these impactful situations, with “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (actually, there are no perks) best appreciated by those who’ve enjoyed the novel, able to fill in the storytelling holes the production leaves behind. It has passion and keenly observes the outsider experience, but its missing impact, scrambling to preserve the literary event while sacrificing screen consistency.

Starring: Logan Lerman, Dylan McDermott, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd
Director: Stephen Chbosky

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