Writer Stephen Chbosky adapts his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower into one of the best coming-of-age tales I’ve seen in some time. His enduring and always truthful script helps draw attention to the incredible performances by Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller. It might have taken me a couple of viewings to really warm up to the film, but now I can’t stop singing its praises.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is lost like so many high school students. He’s shy, lonely and desperately in need of some friends. He starts out small, talking mostly with his English teacher about writing essays and books, but then he does the bravest thing in his young high school life by sitting with the loudmouthed Patrick (Ezra Miller) at a football game.
He’s then introduced to Sam (Emma Watson) and quickly he finds himself in their group of friends. He’s initially overwhelmed with joy and excitement, because finally for once in his life he feels happy and more importantly he feels like he belongs. But like most relationships there comes a great deal of ups and downs.
It’s not too long before Charlie starts to fall for Sam, despite her having a boyfriend and despite another girl from their group taking an interest in Charlie. He’s afraid to just come out and admit his feelings for Sam, so he toughs it out and continues to live with his feelings mostly remaining in his head.
There’s some inner-turmoil from Charlie’s past slowing making its way to the surface as another year of high school ends and Charlie faces the fears of losing his new-found group of buddies to their college futures.
Director Stephen Chbosky approaches The Perks of Being a Wallflower with an insane amount of authenticity. He recreates the uncertain feelings and moods that float around in a high school student’s brain almost completely, with Charlie becoming a direct channel to so many of today’s youth. It helps that Chbosky wrote the book that the film is based upon.
The film could have easily been a failure, because casting something that you’re so involved with could have ended up being a disaster, but Chbosky finds three very gifted young performers to lead the film into waters that most of us have waded in at some point in our early stages of growing up.
Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller become Charlie, Sam and Patrick over the course of the film. They really do cross that territory and make you forget that you’re watching a movie. Their performances feel so real and so unafraid to express the uncertainties of growing up and living in that moment.
Lerman’s up until this point been in mostly good stuff, but not until now has he really had the chance to flex his acting muscles and deliver a performance that’s layered, heavy and still innocent.
Watson’s mostly been known for her work on the Harry Potter series. Wallflower is the perfect movie for her to step away from the Hogwarts spotlight and really start constructing her career. Sam’s beautiful, intelligent and sometimes too caring for her own good. Watson has no struggles showing Sam’s always-good intentions that sometimes leads other characters into a sticky pit of emotions. She’s a great character to invest in because Watson brings so much loving charm to the character.
Ezra Miller might be the brightest star in the film. His Patrick is flamboyant, proud and completely honest with himself and those around him. I love that Miller understands that almost immediately and never forces Patrick into certain stereotypes or frequently visited forms of expression. Patrick is 100% a character that we’ve never quite seen on screen before and that is completely due to Miller’s performance.
Chbosky has managed to hone in on what really makes high school important. Underneath all of the parties and pop quizzes lies friendships and bonds that are formed and carried out through the rest of our lives. The things you do or don’t do during these early years heavily influence the rest of your life and could greatly impact you as a person.
Never before has a writer/director managed to capture that so fluidly before until Chbosky. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those coming-of-age stories that clicks on all of the right levels and rarely fails to elicit some sort of emotional reaction out of its audience. It’ll bring you back, it’ll move you forward and it’ll change your opinion on just how good a film like this can truly be.
The film’s 1080p video transfer is occasionally too soft for my tastes. I’d like to chalk some of that up to Chbosky’s vision, but also to Summit’s middling overall transfer. Some scenes have no problem popping and becoming alive, while others look poorly lit and lack even the simplest of details. It’s not the worst transfer I’ve seen, but it’s slightly below average.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is much more up to quality standards. This is a dialog-focused picture and with that being said mostly all of the speaking can be heard with depth and clarity. From the opening narration until the final closing song The Perks of Being a Wallflower has a distinctive and acceptable audio track.
Here’s a list of bonus material found on the disc:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky
- Audio Commentary with Stephen Chbosky, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman and Erin Wilhelm
- Best Summer Ever (HD)
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky (HD)
- Dailies with Optional Commentary by Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky (HD)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
- Digital Copy
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower might be one of the most over-looked films of 2012. It took me two viewings to really warm up to the film, but I knew almost immediately after the first go that I loved the performances and most of Chbosky’s script and its ability to portray the high school years so honestly, without ever sticking too close to the over-used cliches and story beats.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a fresh coming-of-age story that is nearly flawless thanks to its leads Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller. In the hands of anyone else I’d imagine this film just wouldn’t click as well as it did, without feeling too much like an artificial experience, but Chbosky clearly knows how to write honest and strong characters that feel as real as can be.