Terri Bulan ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Every American teenager and parent of a teenager should be running towards his or her local cinema to see Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. This poignant high school drama deserves to be in the ranks of John Hughes’s Brat Pack films. It has that perfect balance of drama and humor, yet remains realistic and true to the teenage experience. From Charlie’s point of view (played flawlessly by Logan Lerman) we see the pain and joy that comes with being in high school and finding yourself. A lonely freshman still reeling from his best friend’s suicide, Charlie is a prime example of the poor kid that sits by himself in the cafeteria reading books as if his life depends on it. Soon into his first year, Charlie finds a friend in Patrick and Sam (Ezra Miller and Emma Watson), two seniors that happen to be step siblings.
The majority of the buzz about this movie stems from Emma Watson’s role as the object of Charlie’s desire. However, the real focus should not remain on Watson, who struggled a bit with an American accent, but on Lerman and Ezra Miller at the top of their game playing two teens trying to make it through high school. Lerman shines as Charlie; he is lovable, shy, innocent, and socially awkward as Chbosky’s damaged protagonist. Just as in the novel (which was also written by Chbosky) Charlie has your sympathy and unadulterated support throughout the entire story, even when he makes a bad decision.
Ezra Miller is a scene-stealer, as always, portraying the hysterical & charismatic gay friend of Charlie’s. Miller does not play a sissy or an over-the-top queen, but a subtle and realistic homosexual teen. There is concrete evidence in the story that Patrick is gay, but never in the film does Miller or Chbosky’s script make it seem that is the only part of Patrick that matters. He is not thrown in there for laughs or for added drama; he is merely an example of the various people that, like Charlie, must fight to make it out of high school and into the real world.
These two performances demand appreciation as well as Chbosky’s adapted screenplay and direction. One of the reasons for why the film came out as fabulously as the book is because the author also directed the film. Chbosky expresses an understanding of the teenage psyche that parallels Hughes’s films of the 1980’s. Like his predecessor, Chbosky shows the audience that they are not alone. He shows homosexuals that there is acceptance out there, struggling students that they can get into a good university, wallflowers that they can be part of the action, and, arguably the most important thing, that kids suffering from depression or another mental illness are not crazy.
From the very beginning, the movie alludes to Charlie’s past, which includes losing two people he loved very, very much. The movie does not focus on these two people as much as the cult favorite novel does, but they are still major aspects of Charlie’s story. Charlie was damaged at a young age leading him to be in therapy and taking pharmaceutical drugs for his condition. Unlike most teen movies, The Perks of Being A Wallflower does not make Charlie a lunatic who will rot in a hospital or jail cell. Instead, Chbosky offers insight into the pain and guilt by conveying the fact that there is nothing wrong with Charlie other than the fact he was hurt by the loss of two close people.
Too frequently in movies about youth do we see them misrepresented. In best sellers they are drug addicts or teen parents or youngsters that have way too high of a tolerance for immense emotional strain. The Perks of Being A Wallflower accurately represents stereotypical outcasts in the most realistic way ever captured on cinema. The homosexual is not to be feared. The girl with a bad reputation does not end up a drug-addicted prostitute with low self-esteem. Most importantly, the wallflower with an emotional illness is not treated like an alien. Charlie does have a harder time dealing with life, but at 15/16 years of age, who can really cope with the suicide of their best friend without some therapy? Charlie is not a freak, he is just a kid that has had to deal with a lot. He is not a monster, but a shy bookworm with a lot of love to give. He is not an anti-hero as most of damaged teens are portrayed as in books, he is a hero because he shows us all that we are lovable, intelligent, and completely capable of overcoming our issue with a little help from our friends.
SEE IT: For a realistic & heartwarming portrayal of adolescence.
DON’T SEE IT: For emotional and possibly disturbing subject matter.