Reviewed by Ian Forbes
2012 has largely been devoid of films with the ability to truly connect; to capture a slice of life so poignantly and so sincerely as to feel more like a memory than a movie. The Perks of Being a Wallflower does just that, taking a place right at the top of the year’s best cinema.
Some of that hyperbole may be due to the rush of adrenaline, nostalgia, and regret coursing through my veins so soon after seeing the film for the first time (I foresee multiple viewings and a Blu-Ray on my shelf eventually). Hell, this made such an impact that I’m going to read the book … yes, I’m going to READ!
My faith that the book will be even more of a powerful experience comes from the author writing the screenplay and directing the film himself. Stephen Chbosky managed to create a script that develops a true sense of what a high school clique feels like, developing multiple characters and weaving both home and school into the mix, all well under a two hour runtime. And sitting in the director’s chair, Chbosky didn’t fall prey to cloying close-ups or overstepping his bounds visually, allowing the story to speak for itself.
Of course, to make the film work you also need the writer/director in-sync with the cast and everyone else on-set. Going hand-in-hand with the direction is a marvelous job of editing by Mary Jo Markey; organically pushing back story elements experiences by the main character to the forefront when necessary and making them feel very dreamlike, rather than obvious exposition. The soundtrack is another key element that elevates the cinematic experience; dropping in music across multiple eras but also weaving in songs from when the movie is subtly presented. Like Donnie Darko was a love song to the ’80s, The Perks of Being a Wallflower presents the ’90s without making some grand announcement and for anyone who was in high school during that decade, there will be a familiarity that only sucks you into the story and its characters even more.
Using all of those elements to their benefit, the actors all deliver spot-on performances. Logan Lerman has a tricky balancing act to perform from start to finish and pulled it off brilliantly; shading the character with innocence, guilt, warmth, rage, shame, and vulnerability. Working off of him beautifully in more ways that one is Emma Watson, who dove headfirst into her character and made me forget all about being Hermoine Granger until well after the credits had rolled. Ezra Miller almost steals the show, portraying the wisecracking ringleader of the clique. Being both the comic relief and one of the key emotional touchstones is far from easy and he made the gay teenager archetype too often played solely for cheap gags feel real and honest.
The obviousness of Joan Cusack in a minor role towards the end of the film is one of the few choices that fell a bit flat. Pretty much everything else had me scrambling for my collection of mix-tapes as soon as I started the car to drive home and shortly after getting there, this review came to be. Read however much you need to into the subjectivity laced in every sentence of what’s on the screen in front of you. As a film critic, all I need to know is that my words have tipped the balance for anyone on the fence; whether that puts your butt in a theater or keeps you away, I’m just happy that saying ‘yes’ to as many movies as I have to means that I get to see films that really speak to my sensibilities that might not have been on my radar otherwise and hope my words can do the same for some of you.
Obviously, I fell headfirst into the story and I thought about being objective but sometimes you just have to go with your gut. Some movies are meant to be dissected and quantitatively analyzed, some are mindless popcorn munchers, and once or twice a year something this heartfelt comes along. The Perks of Being a Wallflower should be able to reach any demographic from high school on up; but for those of you who were entering college in the mid-90s and had a small, select group of friends who were your entire world until life got in the way, I really recommend seeing this with at least one good friend and implore you to just let go.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is rated PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens.
Follow Us On: