“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Manages to be a Solid Entry in the High School Genre

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“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” Manages to be a Solid Entry in the High School Genre

By Wesley Emblidge

Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Being a high school student, I love a good movie about high school. I love the fun 80s movies like “Ferris Bueler’s Day Off” or “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” laugh hard at R comedies like “Superbad” and “21 Jump Street,” and get really invested with all the characters in “The Breakfast Club.” With “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” writer/director Stephen Chbosky has adapted his own novel into a good, albeit relatively problematic movie that doesn’t stand a chance against any of those John Hughes classics, but is totally fine on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s a movie about high school made for high schools kids, and if the film gets one thing right, it’s that.

Charlie (Logan Lerman, who is easily the worst part of the film) is a messed up kid. Starting out his first year of high school he has a lot of issues, most of which are slowly revealed over the course of the film. Earlier on we learn that he’s been recently hospitalized, that something bad happened with his aunt, that his best friend shot himself, and a variety of other tragic things; I suspect this is all to try and get some sympathy from the viewer. For the most part, that works, although they’re all very surface-level issues. Charlie mentions that his friend shot himself, and that’s all we ever find out. The subject is dropped instantly.

Regardless, Charlie starts off high school as a lot of very misfit, loner kids do: counting down the days until it’s over. That is until, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) show up, to rescue Charlie from his depressing life and us from the blandness of Lerman’s acting. Charlie gets inducted into their group of friends, and from there the film becomes about a variety of struggles between them all; Charlie’s romances with several of the characters, Patrick struggling with his homosexuality (this is Pittsburgh in the 90s, not San Francisco in 2012), and a variety of other things that aren’t exactly compelling, but that most high school kids can relate to.

That’s what makes the film work for the most part, being relatable. In a way it’s similar to the whole “Twilight” strategy: the lead in the books and movies is as bland as possible so girls can put themselves in the role and feel like it’s their experience; here a lot of what’s going on is similar enough to how many feel about high school, so they almost feel like the movie is about them.

Other saving graces are the cast, Lerman is the worst thing in the film, being so uninteresting and fairly miscast, but Miller and Watson both bring their best to the film, giving really good performances that the fairly average script doesn’t really deserve. Scenes that usually would just not work end up working to some extent, just because of how hard some cast members are trying. In the end though, almost every character is pretty surface level, you end up wanting to know more about them but you never do. Paul Rudd is in the movie for about five or ten minutes as an english teacher, and as much as I love Rudd he adds practically nothing, and we know nothing about him at all. Charlie’s entire family is exactly the same way.

I know that many people love the book, and so what this really feels like is a movie adaptation that had to shorten the story, and ended up removing a lot of the characterization that was in the novel. I can see this story working far better as a book, and may actually read it one day. If anyone should see this movie, it’s high school students; this endorsement of mine proves that the film has succeeded on the relatability level. However even though I haven’t read the book, I think I’d suggest reading that over watching the film. Chances are that it’s probably better.

 

3.5/5 Stars