The Perks of Being a Wallflower written and directed by Stephen Chbosky (Summit Entertainment, Mr. Mudd, Lionsgate, PG-13, 102 minutes)
Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller.
Sometimes Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough
Context matters. How often have you experienced a work of art—whether music, film, letters, or sculpture—and recognized the skill and value of the piece without really liking it? Most of the time, this negative reaction comes down to preference. You might understand Salvador Dalí, but perhaps your eye moves toward the softer impressionistic colors of Monet. Perhaps you recognize the skill of Stevie Ray Vaughan but you hate the whiny sounds emerging from his amplifier. Sometimes, it all comes down to context. You’re not in a rap mood; your on-again-off-again romantic relationship colors the way you view the film, (500) Days of Summer.
In short, upon viewing The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I get why it received critical praise, but that doesn’t mean I like the movie.
Shy in Suburbia
The film introduces our protagonist, Charlie (Logan Lerman), as he enters his freshman year of high school in Pittsburgh suburbia. He’s shy; he finds making friends exceedingly difficult; he refuses to let anyone, family or otherwise, into his sequestered existence—one where he is burdened with visions of horrific past events in his life.
All of his feelings begin to change when he befriends a couple of seniors, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson). As the seniors introduce Charlie into their world, Charlie begins to reveal himself and his visions diminish. Patrick and Sam value their underclassmen friend and Charlie soon begins to fall for Sam, although she is involved with a college-aged loser.
With his senior friends soon making arrangements for life after high school, Charlie faces inevitable conflict as he must face his fears and his feelings.
A Film of Quality
The central component to the quality of this film resides in the acting. Logan Lerman depicts a shy and thoughtful personality with aplomb. Ezra Miller inhabits his quirky and eccentric character with gusto. And finally, Emma Watson balances reserved with uninhibited rather well.
Moreover, while this movie is a quintessential high school film (more on that later), novelist and director, Stephen Chbosky pens a somewhat unexpected narrative, balancing the standard teen romance with some rather dark themes.
A Film Outside of My Context
Ultimately, the high school narrative just isn’t my thing. No matter how great the story, I can’t find myself caring about the thoughts, desires, and unreliable feelings of teenagers. In this film, Charlie is shy. So what? I don’t mean to diminish shyness and I know some people go through horrible experiences in high school.
But from my perspective, high school is such a small world where miniscule tics become big deals. In the outside world, being shy doesn’t matter. Even if your experiences are much worse than having a shy personality, there’s a group for you outside the walls of a high school; there are people who appreciate you, want to be your friend, and won’t judge no matter the baggage.
That’s why I find it hard to get involved with a high school drama, even if it has been well-written, well-acted, and has an unexpected narrative.
If you like dark themes and high school narratives, you’ll love The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s just not for me.
Verdict: 3 out of 5