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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

What She said:

She

For the first 20 minutes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into.  We’re introduced to a boy who clearly has some problems.  He’s new to high school, and the kids are really giving him a hard time.  He also has virtually no friends.  It’s indicated that he’s had issues in the past and that these have caused him to become an unknown with his schoolmates.  It was all just sort of depressing.  I almost didn’t believe that kids could be so mean.

But fortunately for this kid, his name is Charlie by the way, he starts to meet a few, much nicer acquaintances.  And by my high school standards, I’d say he scored because they’re seniors.  Imagine that, a freshman who is friends with seniors.  The movie follows Charlie as he strengthens his relationship with these new friends, knowing that they’ll be leaving for college next year, and develops a pretty hard crush on one of them, Sam (Emma Watson).  Of course there are ups and downs, and this is particularly difficult for Charlie because of his psychological condition, but tis life.

I think I’d call The Perks of Being a Wallflower a character study.  It’s interesting to watch the lives of these teenagers unfold.  However, the film is certainly not perfect.  The plot felt so authentic at times, and then they’d randomly throw a curve ball at you that would make you stand up and question the likelihood of any of it.  I credit the film for having some genuine and humanistic humor; the types of gags that would go on between you and your friends.  Most of the actors put in solid performances.  I’d hate to single any one out, but I think that the weakest link was actually Emma Watson.  She tried mercifully to cover up her British accent but it came through at times adding odd inflection to her dialogue.  I think the kid who played Charlie, Logan Lerman, was very good, although he looked a little too old to pull off a high school freshman.

For me, the movie picked up steam as it went along.  I was unsure of how I felt about it until around the last 45 minutes, when I made up my mind that I was generally enjoying the film.  It was fortunate to leave a pretty decent taste in my mouth, which is why I feel favorable about it.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a dark coming-of-age drama that explores the lives of somewhat messed up teenagers.

Thumbs mostly up.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

What He said:

He

I had to mull over this one for a while. The trailers did nothing for me at all. Actually that’s not true. I had a reaction to them, just not a positive one. The trailer made me feel like the movie felt very highly of itself. I got the impression the movie was about a bunch of self-proclaimed outcasts who think they’re better than their critics because they listen to better music, discuss deeper topics, yada, yada, yada. I believe they are referred to as “hipsters” nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing wrong with people who want to do their own thing, but the kind of person who is different just for the sake of being different annoys me. They often end up creating their own cliques and subcultures and act very similar to the popular crowd they hate, so I wasn’t very excited to see this movie.

The story follows a young fella named Charlie. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is nervous about his first day of high school. Lots of kids are, but Charlie’s nervousness stems from something deeper. I won’t tell you what they are, but Charlie has some problems. The movie hints at it early on, but the extent of his problems are revealed bit-by-bit throughout the movie. It actually unfolds very nicely. It feels quite natural. As Charlie makes new friends, you get to know a little bit more about him throughout the film. It’s one of the things I really liked about the movie.

On the first day of school, Charlie’s English teacher, Mr. Anderson, notices Charlie’s affinity for literature. Over the course of the year, the two grow closer, and Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) gives Charlie several books to read, in addition to what is a part of the curriculum. Mr. Anderson thinks Charlie could be a great writer one day and encourages him to read, write, and soak up as much information as possible.

Charlie gets picked on because of his reputation, but eventually finds some new friends in seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). That’s kind of a big deal for freshman, but they all bond over the fact that they are social outcasts. Patrick and Sam are stepbrother and sister, as well as really good friends. They’re very welcoming to Charlie and introduce him to their group of misfits.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

People are people and some drama eventually follows, testing the new friendships, as well as Charlie’s sanity. This isn’t just about a new kid who makes some new friends, has a falling out with them, and must cope. It’s about a kid with some genuine problems. I give the movie credit for tackling some deeper issues. I didn’t see that coming.

It’s all possible because of Logan Lerman’s performance. He makes Charlie very genuine and sympathetic. You really want to see this kid succeed. You see him struggle with being picked on, trying to fit in, as well as some other stuff, and you really find yourself pulling for the kid. Paul Rudd was also quite good too. He wasn’t on-screen for a long period of time, but I really liked his showing as the teacher/mentor, Mr. Anderson. He was one of those people that just seemed like a really good guy. Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, and Mae Whitman (one of Patrick and Sam’s friends) were so-so. It’s probably the way the characters are written, but they’re a little overly dramatic. I know teenagers can be like this, but they were a little too smarmy and acted as if they knew it all a little too much for my tastes.

It goes back to what I was saying earlier about the movie thinking very highly of itself. Like I said, I realize there are people like this in real life, but there was just something about them that annoyed me. Even when I felt sorry for them, I was mildly annoyed by them. They had an air about them. Even the summary of the movie found on several websites seems to reinforce that for me: An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world. The real world, ha! Give me a break. I just kept getting this feeling that writer/director Stephen Chbosky kept telling us how much better these kids are because they are really into music, literature, and theater, while the rest of the kids are doing silly things like sports. It rubbed me the wrong way. Even Charlie, who I really liked, was so much more intelligent than his peers, that the teacher takes him under his wing as if he’s the only one worthy of extra attention.

It didn’t completely take away my enjoyment from the movie, but it was borderline at times. If you have different interests and tastes than the majority of those around you, that’s fine. But be different because you are different, not because you think it’s cool to be nonconformist.

Rating: Thumbs half up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on June 9, 2013.

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