You may remember that a couple of months ago I wrote a longish post about the trailer for Perks of Being a Wallflower and my all-consuming love of Ezra Miller and his perfect goddamn face. Let’s just take a moment, shall we?
Well today I finally got to see the movie. I have feelings. A lot of feelings. It was a really, really lovely film. I’m blogging about something I like again. Twice in a month! It’s absolute mayhem here. So, before we go on I’m just going to reiterate the fact that you should definitely read this book before you see the film. You should read this book generally.
For those of you who haven’t followed the advice in the last paragraph, Perks of Being a Wallflower follows the story of Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, a freshman in high school who is shy, friendless and struggling with depression. One day he musters up the courage to talk to Patrick (Ezra Miller), a flamboyant oddball from his shop class. Suddenly, for the first time ever, he has friends – including Sam (Emma Watson), Patrick’s step-sister, with whom he very quickly falls madly in love. In short, it’s a brilliant coming of age story.
Now, I am aware that reading through that plot summary makes the whole affair sound like some sort of dreadful cliché but I promise the film has depth. It certainly helps that Stephen Chobsky, the novel’s original author, wrote and directed the screen play. Chbosky has said on a number of occasions that the book is semi-autobiographical. His emotional involvement with his subject brings even the supporting characters a life of their own. Charlie cares about them so they’re important.
The cast are perfect. I was a little bit worried about Emma Watson. Maintaining an American accent for an entire film is hard and I’d never seen her in anything other than the Harry Potter films (because I’m lazy and didn’t go and watch My Week With Marilyn) so I had no idea if she could be anything other than Hermione Granger. But I was pleasantly surprised. Logan Lerman didn’t disappoint as Charlie. He’s beautifully awkward even as he’s starting to come into himself. Ezra Miller is, of course, brilliant as Patrick. I’m not just saying that because he’s the most handsome human being ever to handsome, either (although he obviously is). I mentioned it in the last post and I’ll say it again, Patrick is one of my favourite characters. He’s gay but that’s not all he is. I’ve seen a few reviews criticising his place is the film as being something of a prop for the straight characters and as a ‘token LGBT stereotype’. I don’t think this is the case. Yes, he’s camp and yes, there is the tragic story of the doomed romance with the football player but those plot lines aren’t the focus. The focus is on how good he is at being himself. You look at him and you know that things are going to be OK. That’s what Charlie needs and that’s what the teen audience needs as well. Ezra Miller makes him explode with personality and potential (and also handsomeness). Special high fives go to Mae Whitman (who you may remember from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) as Mary Elizabeth, a punk who eventually wants to retire to a big house in Cape Cod once she’s “done with activism.” She’s really excellent.
My only criticism of the film isn’t really a criticism at all. I’ve noticed that a lot of the negative reviews for Perks of Being a Wallflower tend to call the film “melodramatic teen angst”. I have also noticed that these reviewers tend to be a little older, so I’m just going to put it out there: these people may not remember what it’s like to be a teenager. It is melodramatic. Everything is either terrible or wonderful – there is very little middle ground. Sentences like “I swear, in that moment, we were infinite” (one of the popular lines from the novel/film, for those playing along at home) take on big meanings because everything is in an intense state of emotional upheaval. That’s why books and films like this one become the kind of cult classics that get banned in schools across America. Kids are looking for reflections of themselves. It’s why we all read and watch movies. Having said that, I don’t think Perks of Being a Wallflower is melodramatic at all. I think it deals really nicely with its chosen subject matter and does a good job of not slipping into melodrama. It’s currently sitting at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes as well, so I guess I’m not the only one who thinks that.
So that’s me done. You should go see it. I’m pleased that it wasn’t a trainwreck. It’s in cinemas everywhere.