Remember that odd time in High School where cliques reigned supreme and outcasts were shunned? Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky harkens back to the late 80′s to a tell a tale of surviving the challenges of growing up. The Parks of Being a Wallflower tackles everything that might affect teenagers (from abuse, drugs, suicide, homosexuality, and introversion) while never becoming too preachy. For anyone who struggled through high school some of the experiences will feel eerily familiar, while others might bring tears to your eyes.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows the adolescent life of Charlie (Logan Lerman); introverted, shy, and peculiar. As soon as High School begins he is prepared with his countdown of how many more days he has to traverse those halls. Eventually, he works up the courage to befriend a fellow student, in this case the senior Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson). Together they consider themselves “wallflower” and live by their own set of rules, providing Charlie a place where he feels comfortable and belong too.
Charlie develops more complicated feelings for Sam over time. Insecurity and doubt follow his indecision to express how he truly feels about her. Most of his failings are thanks to the experiences of trauma and death that cast a shadow over his life. Before his freshman year, he lost his best friend to suicide. He also blames himself for the death of his favorite relative, aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey), with images of a past that haunt him. The Perks of Being a Wallflower extends these deep and complicated life issues to Patrick and Sam as well, proving that everyone has their own issues to contend with.
Sam has difficulty when comes to studying and picking out proper partners. Charlie feels compelled to help her change her life for the better. He helps her study for her SATs to get into Penn State and explains to her that “we accept the love we think we deserve”. Patrick acts as though he is king of the world. Self-assured and confident, Patrick is one of the school’s first openly gay students and he doesn’t let that bother him. Although most students shun him and call him “nothing”, Patrick only struggles with making positive relationships with those he loves.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower only works because of the casting of the three leads. There’s a great chemistry between Lerman, Watson, and Miller that add that special spark the story needs. Behind the smiles, each character has to battle with their own demons and the roles are well written for the talented young actors that inhabit them.
If there are any problems with Perks, it’s the somber direction of its last third. While believable within the structure the movie sets up, some of the decisions Charlie and Sam make add too much drama to the proceedings. While it could be argued that its expected from teenagers, the film had been more delicate with its material before crashing into sorrow and darkness.
When watching the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it would be easy to dismiss it as another empty teen drama. While the story certainly follows the adolescence of high school students, it has a universal messages and is rewarding enough for even older crowds. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one the better coming-of-age stories in a long while and not only speaks to this generation, but to everyone young and old.