Stephen Chbosky’s cinematic adaptation will please fans of his novel and coming–of–age dramedy suckers alike.
Since “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” hit bookshelves in 1999, it has continuously inspired young adults in the midst of their angsty, transitional mid–teens. The novel, told in a series of letters to an anonymous reader, deals with common issues of adolescence – experimenting with sex, drug usage, sexuality and more – through the eyes of shy high school freshman Charlie. The film version of “Wallflower,” written and directed by its author, Stephen Chbosky, is the most faithful adaptation of a book since Louis Sachar’s “Holes.”
The film, Chbosky’s directorial debut, stars Logan Lerman (“Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief”), Ezra Miller (“We Need to Talk About Kevin”) and Emma Watson (Emma freaking Watson). The 20–year–old Lerman passes surprisingly well for 15, delivering an adorably awkward performance as the titular wallflower. Miller epitomizes the playful but pained spirit of scene–stealing Patrick, a gay senior who takes Charlie under his wing. Emma Watson is a far cry from her days as a know–it–all witch, sweetly portraying Sam, Patrick’s short–haired free–spirited stepsister. It’s easy to see why Charlie falls for her character, although Watson’s subpar American accent almost, but not quite, detracts from her performance. But she really could have benefited from a tutorial on the pronunciation of “can’t.”
Like the book, the movie emphasizes Charlie’s discovery of new music and literature along with his discovery of weed and sex. Charlie’s English teacher (a warm and mature Paul Rudd) gives him classics like “On The Road” and “Walden,” and his newfound friend group partially revolves around shared music tastes, in a perfectly pretentious way that rings all too true. “You have really good music taste,” Sam tells Charlie as if it is the highest possible compliment, before revealing her dark secret of once listening to Top 40. While the script perhaps makes one too many worshipping references to “Asleep” by The Smiths, the film’s soundtrack is actually quite terrific.
The movie’s three young leads are backed by a strong supporting cast, including Rudd, Joan Cusack, Kate Walsh (“Private Practice”) as Charlie’s mother and Nina Dobrev (“The Vampire Diaries”) as his older sister, who is in an abusive relationship.
The tone of the film gradually transitions from a dark comedy with real laughs and charm to a truly wrenching drama dealing with suicide, sexual abuse, homophobia and mental illness. Bring tissues for the latter half hour of the film, which moves from relatable adolescent struggles to draining, intense drama. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” is good enough to join the ranks of high school classics, but don’t expect all “Rocky Horror” fun. Although there’s plenty of that – and a hilarious mistaken “brownie” scene.