Based on the novel of the same name and directed by the novel’s author, Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows Charlie (Logan Lerman), a 15-year old freshman who has trouble fitting in. His lack of confidence and awkward social skills make him a prime target for bullies but he’s soon taken under the wings of seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller).
Perks is a coming-of-age and high school movie, so originality isn’t meant to be the movie’s strong point. Bullying, homophobia and drug experimentation are explored in a conventional way, going through the motions quite swiftly. It’s the emotional rawness, however, and some outstanding performances that make this flick stand out from the average teen movie.
With a protagonist so emotionally complex and a story digging deep into some dark territory, Perks packs a punch, hitting its peak outside of the classroom. It could end up feeling too sappy for some but an engaging narration gives Perks a much-needed edge.
Providing the sterling voice-over is Percy Jackson’s Logan Lerman. Due to lacklustre film choices, Lerman hasn’t made much of an impact on the big screen but he finally shines bright as a naïve and complicated teen. Also Ezra Miller makes an impression as Sam’s gay stepbrother, Patrick. He grounds the character, beaming with self-acceptance and confidence but relies on Chbosky’s strong writing to steer clear of becoming a stereotypical victim [a slight departure from his role as sociopath in We Need to Talk About Kevin] . Lastly, Emma Watson leaves behind Hermione Granger once and for all. Her American accent isn’t fully convincing at times but, for a girl who has played the same character for ten years, she gives a solid and natural performance.
With surprising depth, authenticity and three superb leads, The Perks of Being a Wallflower manages to be a likeable and touching adaptation.
Ben has awarded The Perks of Being a Wallflower three Torches of Truth.