Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, adapting his own novel, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a good film with moments of greatness, helped enormously by a winning central performance from Logan Lerman as the main character. The fact that it ends up not as good as it could be stems from some tired cliches of quirkiness being trotted out, and also from one or two complete mis-steps (like having the cool kids who love cool music not be able to recognise the song "Heroes" by David Bowie - watch the film and you'll probably have the same expression of puzzlement and disdain that I had during that moment).

Lerman plays Charlie, a sensitive young man who doesn't really fit in with those around him at school. He enjoys reading and writing, and quickly finds out that he'll at least really enjoy listening to his new English teacher (Paul Rudd). He's also had some mental health problems, but whatever caused them is obviously going to be held back for viewers to discover as the movie builds to its finale. Anyway, Charlie starts to enjoy life a LOT more when he befriends Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). That also leads to him becoming friends with a few of their friends, and it soon gets easier for Charlie to keep the good days outnumbering the bad days. But the situation probably can't stay so stable, especially when Charlie has such strong feelings for Sam.

Chbosky does fine with the structuring and feel of the movie. There are details teased out as things build up to the climax, and there's fine line between the comedy and the dark tension always running underneath it. He's helped by a good cast, but few of the supporting actors are as good as Lerman. Watson tries hard, and I suppose does a pretty good job, but I just can't accept her as the sexy, cool, free spirit that she's portraying here because, well, I've never found her sexy or cool. She may be both of those things, and I know that she's certainly the former to some people, but she doesn't ever seem that way to me, therefore her character is bearable but unconvincing. Miller does a lot better, but his character is another cliche, alongside Watson's quirky object of desire. Miller is the exuberant gay male, spreading around enough love for everyone while hiding a lot of his personal pain deep inside. Mae Whitman is great for almost every moment that she's onscreen, Johnny Simmons adds another good turn to his CV, and Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh play Charlie's parents, the two may not have much screentime but still do well with what they're given. And horror fans will be delighted by the small role that Tom Savini has in the movie.

There's nothing new here, and that may be the biggest problem that The Perks Of Being A Wallflower has, but a lot of what IS here is done well, and I can't praise that central turn from Lerman enough. But, honestly, the other big problem is . . . . . . . . . what kind of cool kids don't recognise a great David Bowie song when they hear one?


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