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Film Review : Perks of Being A Wallflower

Oct 13, 2012 04:03PM ● By Justin Buettner

Charlie, a shy and mentally disturbed teenager, enters high school with the goal of finding a friend. He fortunately finds a group of seniors who take him under their wing, including the beautiful Sam who may need Charlie as much as he needs her. 

This coming of age story is rather odd. The teenagers do not look or act like teenagers. They don't even dress like teenagers. While this movie clearly takes place in the past as the characters are constantly swapping mix tapes on actual cassettes, the movie is curiously devoid of any cultural references to a particular era or year. Even the music featured in the movie is so varied it doesn't pin it to a specific time. Why is this important? Because more than any demographic, teenagers embrace trends, styles, and distinguishing prevailing attitudes of an era and that plays an important part of how each generation reacts with each other. This was particularly important in relation to some of the issues the movie tackles, including homosexuality, which over time people’s acceptance and viewpoints on this issue have changed dramatically. To strip the film of a generational affiliation actually strips a lot of the personality of the movie.

Any success that Perks of Being a Wallflower hopes to achieve rests on the shoulders of its three leads. The good news is their performances were strong. There were several shortcomings to this movie but acting was not one of them. Logan Lerman’s portrayal of Charlie started slowly but as the film went on his performance became stronger. Emma Watson proved that she has the ability to play roles outside her decade long tenure as Hermione Granger. Erza Miller was perhaps the most convincing of the trio as the open homosexual and fun loving teen outcast Patrick who learns that the world is not as ready for him as he is for it.  

Stephen Chbosky, who was the original writer of the best selling novel, both wrote and directed this film. While see the merits of the original writer seeing his story through to the screen, I can’t help thinking this film would have benefitted greatly from an experienced filmmaker and screenwriter working with Chbosky much like a lot of other novels are adapted. Tricks of a filmmaker’s craft could have dramatically improved the pacing, style and tone of this film. In fact, the entire storyline of Charlie’s decline into madness is mishandled. A good director would have had stronger and more creative visuals at the very least to amplify Charlie’s loss of sanity. As it stands the movie relies on Charlie merely mentioning he “is not doing well” in a voiceover and then having a few blackout moments in the middle of high stress situations. When the movie abruptly switches gears at the end it is not a smooth transition.

In addition the movie adds in a dark subplot right at the end that really comes out of left field and I am unsure if a reveal in the last ten minutes of the film was the best way to tackle the issue from both a subject and a story perspective. Even with the twists at the ending the movie tends to wrap up much too easily for my taste, especially considering the circumstances that Charlie goes through in the final act.

Despite this review coming across negative, Perks of Being a Wallflower does have its moments  that work really well. Charlie’s experience with an overbearing girlfriend are perfectly executed and the quiet moments he shares with Sam are well done. Admittedly I have never read the book but I get the feeling people have are getting more from the film, as is the case with many book to film adaptations. People who identify with outcast teenage characters will get the most out of this film, as ultimately it is written from that perspective. It is a tall task to base a film around a character that is a “wallflower” as normally an audience enjoys watching characters that take action. Charlie is not as much of a wallflower as the title of the movie suggests, so in a small way the movie misrepresents itself. It would have been interesting to see what Perks of Being a Wallflower could have been in a more capable filmmaking team’s hands, but  as it stands the film is a watchable but not memorable coming of age story.

Films like Perks of Being a Wallflower : Juno, Rushmore, and Garden State

Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

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