Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
If there is one thing for certain, there’s nothing quite as profound in your teenage years as losing your Rocky Horror virginity. And then there’s high school, which can be a pickle for sure, especially if you simply don’t fit in. In fact, it’s alienation that The Perks of Being a Wallflower ironically delivers very little of. Logan Lerman’s Charlie, a bookworm with a penchant for The Smiths and F. Scott Fitzgerald, is often ridiculed so viciously that you wonder why anyone as interesting or enigmatic as him would be treated as such. Furthermore, wouldn’t a more fascinating insight into an outsider consider the mindset of someone so lonely that even bullies don’t go near him? But, that’s another movie. For the moment, credit must be given to a tale of teen soul-searching with a big beating heart.
Perks, in the meantime deals its doses of angst, parties and teenage compassion in broad strokes, one after the other. Whereas John Hughes kept Pretty In Pink simple with a love triangle between a have-not Duckie and the rich-kid Blaine for affections of misfit Andie. Perks gives us off-screen suicide, domestic abuse, a secret gay love affair, buried childhood trauma and a character revelation that tonally lurches the story off the rails. A diary the story as a whole may be, some of these caveats tend to bog down the story in fine details. The devil can’t be far away.
The casting for the most part can’t be faulted, characterisation can be. Ezra Miller is a talent capable of scaring the bejesus out of you and here he delivers warmth and camaraderie. It’s a shame then that he is playing stock ‘tragic homosexual sidekick #32’. A loud and (ostensibly closeted) flamboyant bosom-buddy churning out racy dating advice and announcing his Secret Santa got him a Harvey Milk biography, stereotyping still lingers in the broad strokes. Logan Lerman may not be as commanding as Miller, but he gets your attention for sure, although even as a nebbish young-un’ his swagger seems out of step with the role. All attention of course is on Emma Watson, what is there to say? She doesn’t carry the movie, she hits a home run. Combining a humane charm and that familiar hometown aura that you remember from all best friends. On that note, it’s familiarity that is the trump card being played here.
In many ways, your perception of high school in the movies is based on your experience of it. But, where there is courage under duress there is heart, and there will be a good time. For a mixed bag it’s something of an accomplishment that Perks is anywhere nears as endearing as it is. Even the groaners (“Welcome to the Island of Lost Toys”) pull the heartstrings and the heavy hitters (“I want to be sure the first person who kisses you, loves you”) leave you a gibbering ruin. But then why does it work, sure there is a heart an’ all, but what do you stand to gain? You’ll find a misty-eyed reflection on the best friends you’ve ever had, a stirring realisation that you are not alone. That people care enough about you to raise a red tumbler, and that is an encouraging thought isn’t it?