Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Movie Review

Uplifting teenage drama with humour, heart and soul.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is self-adapted from Steven Chbosky’s novel of the same name. While I frequently like reading the novel first to gain more insight into the art of the adaptation, and also to read good books, I stayed clear from this one since it was written as a series of letters. The protagonist writes one letter after another and such works can seem choppy at best. As a film, letter writing can be a useful tool to understand the inner turmoil of characters and here Perks feels very fluid. 2012

Directed by: Steven Chbosky

Screenplay by: Steven Chbosky
(Based on his book)

Starring: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson

Charlie (Logan Lerman) suffers from mental illness resulting from the death of his best friend and a childhood incident with his aunt that is purposely left ambiguous until the very end. Entering highschool, Charlie is an outsider until he makes friends with Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), examples of the titular “Wallflower”. Sam is definitely too pretty and Patrick is likely too funny and charismatic to not be the most popular kids in school, but it really is a good movie, so we let that go.

The best part (and I will eventually start sounding like a broken record if he keeps acting and I keep reviewing) went to Ezra Miller. First he gets his name changed to “Nothing” and then he takes our mentally-damaged hero under his wing and then his flamboyant homosexuality gets him in love and trouble. Lerman’s Charlie might be the eyes to the movie but Miller’s Patrick is the heart and soul and humour to everything that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is.

“Perks” is a dramedy. Superficially, Patrick provides the comedy and Charlie and Sam provide the drama. But the movie works on both a superficial level and multiple layers deep. The quickest way to one’s heart is generally through humour, so that’s mostly how the movie starts. Patrick gets us laughing, and then Sam gets us falling in love and before we know it, we’re emotionally invested in Charlie and realize that he is more disturbed than the rest of us outsiders are. The childhood incident with the aunt is one such instance that could remove us from Charlie but they only give us hints to what occurred up until the very end, and by then we’re all best friends. The multiple layers works well with this incident. Those who dig deep into ambiguous hints can guess early on, while those who are visually adept at understanding the meaning that editing can add to a movie will figure it out next, while the rest will eventually be told. This is just one such example of using editing, flashbacks, and music to enliven all elements of the story.

The dialogue can get a little too clever for the ages of the characters. I always get frustrated when teenage smart alecks start philosophizing about what combination of religions best represent them. Mae Whitman is left to fend for herself as her character is described as “a really nice person underneath the parts of her that hate everybody”. I only saw the hate. The rest of the main characters are all very lovely and are getting their deserved accolades.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a touching and dramatic people-pleaser. It appears to be a hit with all audiences. So much so, that my theatre shortened the name on the marquee to “Being a Wall” and the movie was still sold out.