The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Dir: Stephen Chbosky

Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd

I first read Stephen Chbosky’s book, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, for a book club (yeah, I’m that cool) a couple of years ago. I loved the novel but it I never had it pegged as one that could easily make the transition to the big screen. However, having the author at the helm of a film, which is in itself an autobiographical snapshot of his adolescence, has resulted in the film not only being as good as the book, it’s even better.

Set in Pittsburgh in the 1990s, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows introvert “Charlie” (Lerman) as he enters high school with very low expectations. Charlie is a wallflower, observing others whilst life seems to pass him by, who is struggling to deal with past traumas. When he meets step-siblings Patrick (Miller) and Sam (Watson), he discovers a group of kindred spirits and begins to come out of his shell. Encouraged by his English teacher (Rudd), he finds a new strand of literature which he can relate to. However, the fragility of his mental state threatens to derail all the progress he’s made.

When I first saw the trailer, I was more than a little apprehensive as to how this would turn out. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel, which are by their nature incredibly difficult to adapt to film. The very personal nature of the subject matter allows Chbosky to translate it superbly without losing any of the major themes or plot-points. It also has one of the best soundtracks you’ll hear all year. The tone of the film reminds me a lot of the superb Igby Goes Down.

The casting is perfect. When I saw that Emma Watson was playing Sam I was less than convinced. However, she manages the role really well. After his brilliant debut in Let’s Talk about Kevin last year, Ezra Miller is again superb. Patrick is eminently likeable, but equally troubled. Whilst the young cast all give beautifully measured performances, it is Logan Lerman who is a revelation. His complete embodiment of Charlie’s neurosis is one of the best performances I’ve seen this year.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not perfectly produced film with perfectly rounded performances, because adolescent life is not like that. It sometimes feels slightly disorientated and unsure of itself, which corresponds perfectly to the source material; makes it wonderfully endearing. It is easily one of my happiest, and emotional, experiences at the cinema this year; instantly becoming one of my favourite films of the 2012.

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