*** (3 1/2 stars)
Based on the book by Stephen Chbosky and directed by him, The Perks of Being A Wallflower proves to be a film about high-school, which is not about characters who hate school, the rest of the students, their teacher and life in general. Although it is about the outcasts it isn’t about the angsty pretentious know-alls.
No, it’s about Logan Leman’s Charlie, and the year of 1991 – his first year of high-school. However, instead of letting him be the miserable loner, sat in the corner (well, it does for just a little bit), the film pushes him into a freshman year in high-school of shouting, cool music and learning what love is. Unlike in most teenage/coming-of-age stories, where the protagonist meets the even more depressed sidekick, Charlie meets Sam (Emma Watson) and her gay step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin). The two of them are not afraid of declaring their eccentricity to the world either at a party or at the Rocky Horror Picture Show they put on.
The film’s charm partially lies in the fact that it is not set in the immediate contemporary. That’s probably why it’s soundtrack, compiled by music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, seems original and fits perfectly with the marvelously 90s spirit of the story, including songs from The Smiths, David Bowie, Cracker and Sonic Youth. Basically, this is the time when people used to write on massive clunky type-writers (that word-producing thing before laptops and let’s not even talk about tablets) and listened to music on reasonably-sized headphones, made mixed tapes and even owned records made of actual vinyl.
The plus of the film is that it’s not trying to be smart and although it has its slightly melodramatic and over-the-top moments, it’s not awfully serious about life. It doesn’t portray adolescence as a tragic period of one’s life when no one understands them. The characters of The Perks of Being a Wallflower are not perfect – in fact, they are rather flawed but that’s part of the whole story and I really don’t want to spoil it all for you. There’s the occasional break-down or black-out but there are reasons for that, too.
Probably the adaptation from page to screen could have been smoother with some moments of the script sounding artificial but then that is also part of the character’s charm. The actors fit well in their roles with Emma Watson coming out of Hermione’s skin and Leman cast as something different from the usual outsider. On the overall, Chbosky’s film may not be cinematically great but it’s still witty and makes a statement most teenage films do not – it’s better to live life than just look at it.