The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Movie Review

Behold something great, something riveting, something enchanting, something mesmerizing, something heartfelt and something authentic.

That is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, my favorite movie of 2012 so far. Brought to you by the producers of Juno, the movie is set in the early 1990s in a town in Pennsylvania. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a fifteen year old starting high school and dreading it. He meets Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), two seniors, who open him up to the many things he’s missing out on life and lead him on a path of growth that will change him forever and help him deal with this tormented past, which is told in flashbacks.

The movie is based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky who actually wrote and directed the movie, which made the experience much tighter and the movie much more faithful to the original material than any other book adaptation I’ve seen. Chbosky may not be a filmmaking expert but he sure did a beautiful job in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. His take on his story gives depth to the book. It is one of the rare instances when what you read on paper is given life on screen – one that you want to see as it adds to what you’ve read. So if you haven’t read the book, I suggest you do so before watching the movie. It will only take you a few hours. And check out my review of the book here.

The movie is bolstered by the strong performances by its lead actors and actress. Lerman gets across Charlie’s insecurities and vulnerabilities in a way that seems effortless. Watson completely leaves behind any hints of Hermione (take notes Kristen Stewart) and exposes you to a whole different spectrum of her acting skills. Miller, as the guy struggling with his sexuality, is effervescent and joyful and haunting.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a movie about the joy of being accepted and the fear of loss, all in the mind of a fifteen year old trying to make sense of growing up. It is a sometimes grim and at other times funny look at the lives of these kids as they struggle with abuse, loneliness, social norms, homophobia and love, all in a high school setting spanning one scholastic year with all of its ups and downs.

It is a movie that isn’t unlike other movies you might have seen before but it’s just so much better. It doesn’t have the cliches you’d expect from a high school drama. But it definitely has all the components to make it relatable and sweet and, well, irresistible. The music in it is great too.

You can’t but feel elated as The Perks of Being a Wallflower enters its last scene. You can’t but have a smile on your face as you see the tunnel flash in front of you and as Charlie stands, your emotions too will stand.

And in that moment, I swear, you will be infinite.

9/10

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) – Book Review

I started reading this book this morning. I am reviewing it in the afternoon. If this isn’t a testament to exactly how “captivating” it is as a read, I don’t know what is.

It’s 1991. Charlie is a fifteen year old boy about to start his freshman year of high school. And he’s terrified. Especially after one of his friends commits suicide a few months earlier. The only way he manages to cope with the looming idea of what awaits him is to write letters to a “friend” who doesn’t really know him, with no return address and no way to trace back the letters.

The letters he sends are, more or less, diary-like entries: elements from his every day life that he feels are important to share, events that he feels are shaping his life, changing him and making him grow up. During his freshman year, he meets Sam and Patrick, two seniors, who accept him in and show him the life that they’ve been living. Be it driving in Sam’s truck through a tunnel with her standing in the back feeling in the fresh air to experimenting with LSD and pot at parties to opening up to sexual experiences.

Sam and Patrick, and later on their other friends, open Charlie’s eyes to a wide range of opportunities in life that he’s unfamiliar with. They call him a wallflower: a person who listens, observes, doesn’t talk about things and understands them. They make him feel included. They make him accepted. His advanced English teacher, Bill, realizing Charlie’s brilliance, starts giving him extra readings to do, shaping up this young man’s life. And in doing so, the new additions to Charlie’s life help him cope with the dark past that he is oblivious to and which lurks under his skin, ready to surface at any moment.

Published in 1999, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a much deeper book than it seems to be. It is easy to categorize it as a simply a teenage trashy book simply because of its general mood. But when you know that this book is one of the most challenged by parents in the United States, you are forced to reconsider. Why do parents feel The Perks of Being a Wallflower is “dangerous” to their children? Because the themes the book deals with are gut-wrenchingly real and they are dealt with in such a brilliantly realistic manner. Drugs, pregnancy, abuse, sexuality – all of these topics that matter to teenagers are approached in the book in a way that isn’t complex. The writing is very simplistic, approachable and easily comprehensible. At the same time, the book runs deeper than the easy language it boasts.

It is a coming of age book, like the story of its protagonists, that is candid. Charlie shares his stories with remarkable honesty, pulling you into whatever emotional state he conveys in his letters. When he’s happy, you can’t but smile. And when he goes into dark phases of depression, you can’t but empathize. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a collection of Charlie’s most important moments and his realization of the need to live those moments as much as you can, be it a shortcoming or a victory.

As Charlie discovers that he likes girls that are unconventionally beautiful to books that require him to be a filter not a sponge to the realization that truly loving someone is about wanting to see not hurt at all, even if it means being apart, you see him grow on the pages in front of you and transform from an insecure kid to a growing young adult. And as he comes to the realization that in order to reach his full potential in life he needs to stop being a wallflower, you can’t but share his infamous sentence and say it out loud: “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”

Teenagers should read more of this and less of Justin Bieber related things.

8/10