If you’ve been under a rock, or don’t watch MTV at all, then you may be utterly unfamiliar with this movie. I first heard about it as the ‘next big’ movie of one of the former Harry Potter stars. After going being sure to catch Dan Rad’s first outing, a mediocre horror film, Lady in Black, and seeing the recent Tom Felton entry, Apparition, I thought, let’s go for the trifecta and see Emma Watson’s latest entry in the post-Potter mania.
Perks of Being a Wallflower follows troubled freshmen Charlie, played occasionally well by Logan Lerman, as he copes with missing a year of school and dealing with general teenage awkwardness. Charlie writes letters throughout the book this movie is based on, the sole vehicle of communication for Charlie in the movie and the narrator. The book plays the angle well, but leaves much out, the movie leaves even more out. Charlie has two siblings, one away at college, the other there at home with him and his two parents. His first few days of high school are not great, but his English teacher, played wonderfully by Paul Rudd, takes a shine to him and sees him as the intelligent kid he is. During shop class he meets the perfectly cast Patrick, played by Ezra Miller. Patrick befriends Charlie and introduces him to a world he never knew, including Patrick’s gorgeous sister, played by Emma Watson.
The three go through the school year together, Charlie being several years younger than them and feeling the burn of the separation as the year continues. Charlie has a crush on Sam, Patrick’s sister, but ends up dating their friend, Mary Elizabeth. The relationship doesn’t end well and Charlie begins to backslide into bad habits. As Sam is about to leave for college, Charlie has a huge revelation and realises that his late Aunt Ellen did things to him that he had repressed.
The story is romantic, in a way, but I didn’t find it terribly original. Many of my friends revered this book, raving about how it had gotten them through tough times and dealing with growing up. And while I can certainly appreciate how a novel like this can be so affecting, but both the movie and the book left me uninspired. I didn’t feel better or worse, it just was and shortly thereafter, I forgot it. Maybe it’s because my friends weren’t drinkers, didn’t do drugs or any of the things the main characters did in the story, so it made it impossible to relate to for me.
At times, the casting was pitch perfect, at other times, less so. I expected to come out of the movie in awe of Lerman and Watson, but neither shined all that much. Lerman seemed tentative at all times, as if he were afraid to grasp the role fully, allow his inhibitions to truly go. I was never convinced that he was troubled, just socially awkward. Watson is stunning, but when I read the book, the description of Sam was more towards promiscuity than beauty. While her looks can’t be argued, I expected to see a huge leap forward with this role and didn’t quite see it. Maybe my expectations were too high, but even Radcliffe seemed more in tune with his role in Lady in Black, and even Felton was better in Apparition. I just felt unimpressed by her performance and didn’t see any aspect of Sam, but just a watered down, bad ass version of Hermione. Also, the eyebrow moniker that she has can’t quite be shirked, but she’s getting closer. Like Lerman, I felt like Watson shied away from the difficult scenes, which were practically every other scene in the movie. Of the three, Miller was the show-stopper. He had a quiet hilariousness to his actions and made the character of Patrick come to life.
One thing that frustrated me greatly was the misuse of the amazing cast. I would have loved to see the scene of Candace having the abortion in the movie, as Nina Dobrev was surprisingly convincing as the older sister of the troubled Charlie. Her best scenes were towards the end of the movie, but were just wonderful. The adults were perfect, Paul Rudd as the caring teacher, Dylan McDermott as the concerned father and Joan Cusack as the doctor at the very end, all well cast and well played.
Despite the rave reviews, I can’t honestly recommend this movie to anyone. If you liked the book, and God love you, then go see the movie. If you didn’t, then this might be a rental or a wait for on TV. The subject content isn’t for kids under 18, if you ask me honestly, given the sex, drugs, drinking and sexual abuse, but the story can be touching for those in the younger age bracket. I’m just glad not to be a parent to opt to take, or not, my kid to this type of movie. The movie itself was well-made, but I noticed the author of the book also directed the movie and it made me wonder if someone with more experience could have guided the two young stars better with the challenging source material.