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The Perks of Being A Wallflower - Review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT’S always refreshing when a film can bring something new to an overworked genre and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being A Wallflower, which he adapted and directed from his own semi-autobiographical novel, does just that.

Taken at face value (or judged by its trailer) the film looks like a run-of-the-mill coming-of-age dramedy that follows the path of a socially awkward teenager to success and popularity during High School.

Yet it rolls out in such a way that the story genuinely engages rather than feeling contrived, juvenile or forced.

Yes, there are certain boxes ticked along the way but Chbosky’s film operates from a place that feels more emotionally authentic (arguably by virtue of its basis in reality) and because it is not afraid to exist in darker places.

Hence, themes of sexual identity and conformity, abuse and insecurity are all aired but never in a way that feels forced or overly manipulative.

And the performances are such that you genuinely care about each of the main three characters involved.

Set in Pittsburgh during the early ’90s, the film follows freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he attempts to fit in and overcome his own personal demons dating back to an early tragedy involving a family member.

At first, encouragement comes from his English teacher (Paul Rudd) but he then falls in with a group of older kids, including the homosexual Patrick (We Need To Talk About Kevin‘s Ezra Miller) and his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson).

Once united, these three friends form an unshakeable bond that sees them grow as people and have the strength to tackle whatever life throws at them.

One of the film’s biggest surprises is just how good the central performances are. Lerman, especially, stands out as a dramatic actor to watch, imbuing his character with the right mix of determination and humility to endear. Watching him peel away the layers of a deeply troubled character is utterly engrossing… so much so that we are able to enjoy his triumphs even more.

Watson, too, is good value as Sam (complete with convincing American accent), while Miller is also extremely likeable as Patrick, displaying a free-flowing charisma that was needed after his eerie turn in We Need To Talk About Kevin.

Special mention, too, deserves to go to Rudd’s teacher, who is by turns engaging and sensitive in a way that all good movie (and real-life) teachers should be. If the film has a weakness, it’s that it could use more of him.

That said, Chbosky maintains the dramatic momenum nicely, evenly balancing the feel-good with the more dramatic and earning his laughs rather than forcing them. The result is a film that entertains immensenly by virtue of its emotional honesty and one that deserves to find a big following.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 103mins
UK Release Date: October 3, 2012