Release Date: October 3rd, 2012
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Erza Miller, Paul Rudd, Mae Witman
And so starts the season of overly romanticised tales of tortured writers – or so the trailers before this particular film would suggest. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the film of the book by the same and directed and written by the author of said book, Stephen Chbosky. The tale of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school freshman in the early 90s’, is not a new one but an interesting one nonetheless. As yet another film celebrating the underdog and the introvert – or Wallflower as this film calls them – here’s hoping the current teenagers aren’t bored of the message as Wallflower could easily become the cult film of their generation (at least one without vampires anyway).
Wallflower is framed by Charlie’s voice-over in the form of letters he’s writing to an unknown character only ever referred to as ‘friend’. This is copied over from the format of the novel but on a, thankfully, reduced frequency. Voice-overs are often tiresome especially in a teen drama as the character mopes and whines but the film manages to keep it unobtrusive and moderate. The device is mostly used to cover lengthy periods of time otherwise ignored by the film, which does give the impression that Charlie only writes to this ‘friend’ when he’s bored or alone unlike the novel where all events are told through letters. It also leads to certain events being completely brushed over and a level of lazy character development, particularly Charlie’s relationships with everyone other than Sam (Emma Watson). While Charlie is a definite challenger for the Marty Stu to rule all other Marty Stu’s, his character should be defined more than his infatuation in his dream girl.
While Sam is clearly the character us in the audience should be in love with as well, and Watson certainly can be seen enjoying her role as her performance is mostly light yet solid, Patrick is the undoubtedly the best character, brought to life by the brilliant Ezra Miller. Most recently seen in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Miller provides an almost completely reversed performance though no less compelling and much more fun. It’s a shame that some of Patrick’s plot lines have been removed or greatly reduced, but Miller still managed to make his character well rounded and likeable and becomes the highlight of Wallflower.
Shockingly, one of the major themes of Wallflower is music. The group of misfits have forsaken the popular music of their time (at least for the most part) and instead prefer to listen to older music, preferably on vinyl. I can almost hear a new batch of hipster hatchlings emerging and older hipsters being completely revolted by the mainstream exposure (though it’s not like the songs are particularly eclectic. Come On, Eileen is an awesome song but it’s hardly underground). A lot is made of the importance of music in developing your own identity as a teenager. Charlie is a fan of The Smiths, particularly the song ‘Asleep’ which says a lot in itself. Large sections of the film then comment of Charlie’s personality as he experiences new music and enjoys new songs including ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie which becomes the symbol of freedom for the trio (and a point of great amusement for myself).
Wallflower is a mostly harmless, generic coming-of-age film. More John Hughes than 10 Things I Hate About You or Easy A, it tries to remain down to earth and reminiscent of an earlier if not simpler time. Where the film truly comes into its own is in the ending. What happens feels a little startling as the the previous scenes merely tiptoe towards the dramatic conclusion.
Overall, the film should become iconic for current teenagers and the ages dotted round about whereas older audience members are likely to get little more than a sense of nostalgia. fans of the book may wish to temper their expectations to appreciate the adaptation as some semi-important sections are cut but, if you have the time and the disposable income, you can’t go far wrong with this adaptation.