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The Perks of Being a Wallflower(2012)
An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.
For more about The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray release, see the The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on February 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Logan Lerman, Dylan McDermott, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd
Director: Stephen Chbosky
» See full cast & crew
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray Review
Donnie (slightly less) Darko.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, February 1, 2013
It's probably unfair to compare The Perks of Being a Wallflower to Donnie Darko in any way, shape or form. Wallflower doesn't feature any science fiction or fantasy elements, no alternate reality, no real (onscreen) death and destruction (save for one fleeting image) and most importantly no giant menacing bunny. Still, for reasons which may be more subliminal than rational, I couldn't help but think of Jake Gyllenhaal's Donnie and his trials in trying to navigate the wild and wooly world of high school as I watched Logan Lerman's Charlie undergoing a similar set of tribulations. Perhaps the comparison is at least a little apt since both Donnie and Charlie suffer from certain emotional disturbances, and in both films the boys are on psychotropic drugs that may or may not be ameliorating or exacerbating their inner torment. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is ostensibly the more "realistic" film, but some may feel that its overly sanguine look at a misfit teen finding his own niche in high school society is at least as much a work of fantasy as anything that happens in Donnie Darko. Based on the well received 1999 novel (brought out by MTV Books) by Stephen Chbosky (who adapted and directed this film version), The Perks of Being a Wallflower is probably going to speak most clearly to those who have relatively recently completed their own circuit through the obstacle course of high school. Older viewers may find it overly contrived, too precious for its own good, and potentially hobbled by a wobbly transition from its source as a so- called epistolary novel. The film may ultimately be best remembered for some nicely nuanced performances, including Emma Watson in a role seemingly designed to help erase any lingering image of Hermione Granger that has been firmly imprinted for years in filmgoers' minds.
What is that noise? Younger viewers might be forgiven for not immediately recognizing that "tippy- tappy" sound the occurs early in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but it's the now nostalgic sound of typewriter keys hitting the platen. The fact that Wallflower's central character Charlie wants to be a writer and spends quite a bit of time writing to his unseen "friend" is important to the film, but also one of the central reasons this adaptation has not ported over to this medium wholly successfully. Chbosky's novel was made up of those very letters, offering an immediate and visceral window into Charlie's roiling internal emotional life. Here in the film version, we're obviously spectatiors, seeing the story from the outside, and despite Chbosky porting over sections of the letters in the form of narration by Charlie, there's still a distance that was perhaps inevitable, but which works to the film's detriment.
There's a genre of anime appropriately called "slice of life" in which not a lot of earth shattering events happen, but instead a series of more mundane day to day occurrences make up the bulk of the plot, often in fact dealing with high school students. And despite a couple of more intense interchanges that dot the landscape of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, calling this film a live action "slice of life" outing might be deemed entirely accurate. Charlie quickly learns to navigate high school in his own introverted way, rather quickly making friends with outcasts Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Patrick's step sister Sam (Emma Watson). Neither of these siblings has quite the emotional baggage that Charlie evidently does (the film is strangely discursive at times about Charlie's actual "issues"), but the three band together and a rather profound bond is forged.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower anecdotally moves through several issues, including homosexuality (Patrick is gay and Charlie catches him making out with a closeted football player), heterosexuality (Charlie has a somewhat unrequited crush on Sam which provides an ongoing plot element), drugs (Charlie gets unwittingly stoned at a party after eating an Alice B. Toklas brownie), and family dysfunction (as Chbosky rather smartly mentions in his commentary, Charlie is a ghost walking through his own house, until the film's late revelation about some disturbing family history). As such, the film is fitfully effective, as in a scene where Charlie sees his elder sister getting smacked by her boyfriend, or, much later in the film, a scene where Patrick is getting the crap kicked out of him and Charlie explodes with his own brand of "fists of fury".
But just as often The Perks of Being a Wallflower seems little more than skin deep, albeit a shallowness that is marked by obvious good intentions. The film is simply too sanguine for its own good, a quality that seems especially unfounded given some of the disturbing content that is part and parcel of Charlie's history. Chbosky is obviously attempting to craft a generally optimistic tale, though, one which shows even misfits can fit in with other misfits, and so in that regard at least part of this quality is understandable.
While the film never really gels as a cohesive entertainment, there's a lot to enjoy just in terms of performances. Logan Lerman finds just the right combination of vulnerability and steeliness as Charlie, and Emma Watson is wonderful as the free spirited Sam. The supporting work of everyone from Ezra Miller to Paul Rudd as Charlie's English teacher and writing mentor are also quite effective. But The Perks of Being a Wallflower ends up being a case of the parts being greater than the whole.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate Films with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. It's actually a little shocking to see that this was a Super 35 shot film, for large swaths of Wallflower look incredibly soft and undefined, almost to 16mm levels. While there isn't the concomitant graininess that 16mm usually offers, this is really one of the least sharp looking contemporary (as opposed to catalog) releases I personally can remember. Adding a bit of insult to injury is wildly inconsistent contrast, which varies from being pushed to the point of milkiness to underperforming in several dimly lit interior scenes to the point where nothing other than general visual information can be discerned. This may sound like The Perks of Being a Wallflower looks horrible, but that's actually not the case. In the brightly lit school scenes (the cafeteria sequences, for example), things pop quite nicely and when we get close-ups in those scenes, fine detail is commendable. But this is overall a weirdly soft and murky looking release.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Perks of Being a Wallflower features an ingratiating if not overly aggressive lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that springs to life when the source cues are played and in several crowded sequences, where we get a really good recreation of aural depth of field and discrete channelization. The huge majority of the film plays pretty resolutely in the front channels, though, especially with regard to Charlie's narration (which is understandable), but also generally even in sequences where one might expect more "rear guard" action with regard to at least some ambient environmental effects. That said, fidelity is fine and dynamic range has a bit of elasticity due especially to some noisier scenes like the dance and the party.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
My hunch is if you're under 30 (and even better, close to 20), you're probably going to love The Perks of Being a Wallflower, warts and all. Those of us who have crossed the dreaded threshold into middle age will probably be less inclined to overlook the film's flaws. The best thing about this outing is the fine acting by Lerman, Watson and a dedicated supporting cast. But Chbonsky might have needed a little "outside help" to more fully realize the transition from printed page to celluloid.
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