Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a WallflowerThe trials and tribulations of high school are something that pretty much everyone can identify with. Whether you were (still are?) one of the geeks, captain of the football team or always the lead in the school productions, high school has plenty to challenge and test you. There have been myriad films exploring this and at first glance The Perks of Being a Wallflower doesn’t seem like anything we haven’t seen a number of times before. However, there is more to the film that meets the eye and some key central performances ensure it isn’t your average, run of the mill high school flick.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is just starting high school and has a hard time settling in. He struggles to fit in and doesn’t really have a strong identity – he’s a wallflower. That is until he joins up with two older students, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who take him under their wing and expose him to a life of fun, frivolity and friendship. However, a dark secret from Charlie’s past threatens to bubble to the surface at any moment.

One of the triumphs of the film is that it has something that almost anyone can identify with, particularly if you are under the age of, say, 30. even then, there are still likely plenty of moments that will jog memories back to your own time at school. This is helped by the unidentified time period which, although is somewhere in the early 1990s, does well to create a setting that lends itself to a much broader era.  Virtually every high school demographic is covered in some form, allowing a different people to get different things from the film when they watch it. However, the film is mostly geared towards those who had a hard time fitting in and didn’t find that time in their life particularly easy. If that sounds like you for whatever reason then there is plenty to associate with.

Perks is full of heart and takes you through the full spectrum of emotions across a number of different characters. Happiness, despair, confusion, jealousy: they’re all there and more besides, perfectly encapsulating the various emotions those of high school age go through. However, at times it does feel a little schmaltzy and saccharine, although this, in part, does come from the transition from book to screen. Elements of the book that felt empowering and uplifting do come across as corny in places, although that is purely subjective and others may feel they hit home as intended.

When a popular book gets adapted for the screen, there are always an army of dissenters who call for blood over how much the film has changed compared to the source material. Well perhaps the best way to avoid that is for the book’s author to pen the screenplay himself, and that’s precisely what Stephen Chbosky did with Perks. It sticks about as faithfully as one could hope to the storyline of the book; all omissions are ones that in no way hurt the story and are completely understandable. Charlie’s home life probably takes the biggest hit in terms of cut content but if something had to go then it’s probably a fair decision.

The three leads in the film all portray their characters superbly, with Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller in particular turning in superb performances as Charlie and Patrick respectively. Miller’s flamboyance and exuberance is a world apart from 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin showing that he has some serious acting chops for one still so young. Emma Watson, in her first lead role since Potter, can be a little hit and miss at times, particularly to start with although she grows into the character as the film progresses.  Some may find it a little farfetched to imagine such attractive leads as social outcasts but that’s mere finickiness in otherwise impressive scripting and casting.

Whilst not likely to set the world on fire in terms of high school drama films, there is a lot to like about Perks. It feels very much like an indie movie through most of it, so don’t expect any Hollywood gloss. The superb soundtrack featuring The Smiths, David Bowie, Sonic Youth, among others, is a high point, and the dark undercurrent it exudes also helps steer it away from others in its genre and makes for a genuinely surprising ending. It’s presented slightly differently in the film compared to the book, but it still packs a punch and effectively rounds off a film that succeeds in being anything but a wallflower.


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24 thoughts on “Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

  1. ckckred says:

    This is one I want to see but have been to lazy to go out to watch, despite that it’s currently playing at a local theater. Good review, I hope I will check this one out soon.

  2. Nostra says:

    Will review this tomorrow. Really liked it as I thought it was the perfect blend of comedy and drama.

  3. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. I loved the hell out of this film and I think mainly the reason that I just got out of high-school is why I cried like a big baby at this thing. It definitely works on it’s nostalgia-factor for most, but also it’s endearing and sweet story of growing-up.

    • Yeah it’s definitely one of those films that’s gonna affect you more if you are either in high school or have recently left. I’m 26 now but there was still plenty to identify with and I reckon it’ll be one of those films that will still connect with teenagers in 10, 15 years time.

  4. Hunter says:

    I really liked this film. I wouldn’t say love really, but it is a very big LIKE!
    The only real problem I had was the over-abundance of social issues. While on one hand what you say is right, this probably does help people relate more to what’s happening. Because there are more issues, more people can potentially find something to relate to.
    Without getting too awkward, I can say that I did not fit in in high school. And yet, I could not totally relate to the film because I ONLY had the problem of not fitting in (and other stuff like grades and getting into college which was covered). The characters in the film had to go through a lot of abuse that I don’t think (and really hope!) is common. Of course, this makes for a more interesting and meaningful film, but also makes it harder to relate to. After I watched this film, I felt that I couldn’t complain about my high school experiences because honestly, they weren’t as horrific and I’m moving past them pretty easily.
    That said, I could relate to a lot of the feelings that they expressed (lack of self esteem and wanting to get past awkwardness etc…) and I really loved Charlie a lot by the end of the film. He was such a great kid.
    I also haven’t read the book, but I really want to so I can compare!

    • Some interesting points! I do agree that these characters go through the mill a little more than most teenagers, I’d be a little worried if this was all true! I doubt anyone is going to relate to everything that happens in the film, but I reckon there are bits and pieces that most people, especially those of a certain age, will relate to.
      I definitely recommend the book, it goes into more of Charlie’s homelife, which is pretty interesting, particularly his relationship with his sister.
      Thanks for taking the time comment 🙂

  5. mistylayne says:

    Definitely wanting to see this, just want to read the book first.

  6. Great write up. I loved this film and have added the book to my list of ones to read. Loved the soundtrack too! You’re right about Watson. Although for the most part she impressed me, at times it felt like she was holding back. Maybe it was just the accent throwing me off?

    • Thank you 🙂 Watson was fine for the most part, maybe it was just that the other two were even better. Her first few scenes, from what I can remember, weren’t the best and that English accent did slip through a couple of times although by the end of the film I didn’t really notice.
      As for the soundtrack there’s been quite a lot of people asking why they have never heard of Heroes by David Bowie as it’s such a famous song, especially as they know songs by less well known artists of a similar ilk. Minor annoyance though! 🙂

  7. Fantastic review! This was supposed to open around here like a month ago and it hasn’t yet! Waiting anxiously for it as it’s been very well-received and I’m definitely curious.

    • You should definitely try and track it down as and when it does open. It must be a nightmare having to wait so long for stuff, I thought we had it bad!

      • It IS a nightmare. And a pain in the ass. I don’t know why they take so long. They’d cut down on piracy in a big way if they released films quickly instead of months or even years after the rest of the world.

      • I really don’t know why it takes so long to get to other countries. I mean, I’m guessing there is language stuff to sort out, either dubbing or subtitling, but I wonder if they have to get certain clearances or licenses to show film in certain countries which may take a bit of time. It must be so frustrating, especially when you see people reviewing stuff on here that you really want to see!

      • Yeah, I think the clearance or license part is what takes the longest but I doubt it really takes the time it normally does. And it’s very frustrating, especially nearing the end of the year/award season. All the good ones are coming out in the US and UK and we’re getting them on late January or even later, when all the awards have been given out! haha

  8. Brilliant write up, I couldn’t have said it better myself! I went into this pretty blind, as I havent read the book, and was pleasantly surprised. Was thinking it was going to be the BREAKFAST CLUB of this generation, only to find a lot more!!

    • Thanks very much 🙂 I must admit that I have never seen The Breakfast Club. Sacrilege, I know! I read the book of Perks a while ago and the film is a really good telling of it, although I would still recommend reading it if you enjoyed the film.

  9. sati says:

    Fantastic review! I must say that I’m not a fan of any of the people in the cast, but the story and all the positive reviews make it seem like a film worth checking out. I’ll definetly see it when I have a chance.

  10. ruth says:

    I didn’t go to high school in the US but I think I could still relate. I’m curious about this as the author himself directed the film, that’s quite rare I’d imagine. Even more rare that he did a good job with both!

    • Even though the setting is different, I’d imagine much of the issues are still the same pretty much wherever you are. Having the author pen the screenplay and direct the film is definitely a good way of ensuring it remains as true as possible to the source. He obviously didn’t want his book being butchered!

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