The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Sometimes an inexperienced filmmaker can use a helping hand from his cast. That's exactly what
Back in the director's chair for only the second time, the filmmaker, like his main character, is a little unsteady on his feet. But thanks to his stars, the film -- like the book -- is a smartly observed study of a troubled teen's first year in high school.
Chbosky has kept much of his novel's central narrative device -- letters written by a depressed freshman named
Set in a
His luck begins changing when he braves a football game alone and makes a point of bumping into
From there, the film digs into the major theme, which is the messy business of figuring out who you are. There are side issues of sexuality -- straight and gay -- and friendship. But the engine driving the film is Charlie's personal history. Chbosky takes his time teasing out that particular trauma.
The journey there would probably have proved too dreary if not for Patrick and Sam. While Charlie is the "wallflower," more an observer than a partaker of life, Patrick and Sam throw themselves into every experience. Now they are dragging Charlie along for the ride -- and yes, it literally begins with a ride. It's after that first football game, and Patrick is racing his pickup through a tunnel while Sam stands in the truck bed, arms outstretched, screaming for joy. Charlie would too, but he can't quite bring himself to let go yet.
That struggle between restraint and freedom is nicely mirrored by the look of the film ("Crazy, Stupid, Love" cinematographer
Chbosky trusts his audience to understand the subtext of moments without throwing in a lot of unnecessary explanations. That requires a more nuanced level of acting, and the core cast is very adept at pulling it off.
Lerman gives Charlie the look of a young colt still trying to get his legs, the awkwardness never overplayed. Watson seems to relish a chance to play a teenager whose only powers are to be smart, sensitive and crush-worthy -- she makes sure Sam hits all those notes. But it is Miller, so chilling opposite
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight -- all involving teens).
Running time: 1:42.
Credits: Written and directed by
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