“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
There’s a reason that the critics are all over the map on this one. This movie is all over the map.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a shy, quiet boy whose initial high school experience is pretty disastrous. He tries to fit in but just can’t seem to do the right thing. He makes a vague reference to some recent trouble he’s had, which may help explain why nobody has much to do with him. He is a bright student, and his English teacher (marvelously underplayed by the occasionally over-the-top Paul Rudd) is happy to give him extra reading because he’s so interested.
Finally, Charlie makes a connection, but it’s a surprising one: Seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) are step-siblings who like hanging out together, along with several of their offbeat friends, who like going in costume to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and riding through long tunnels while standing up in the back of a pickup truck with arms out (don’t try this at home), and doing a little drinking and drug experimentation at their parties. The only visible parents are Charlie’s, who seem nice enough, but clueless, which may be how most teens would describe their parents, anyway.
Emma Watson, the already-veteran actress of the “Harry Potter” series, is definitely a screen presence that cannot be easily ignored (though her American accent still needs a little work, and she’s five years too old for the part), and Logan Lerman’s leading performance is obviously undergirded by an impressive resume as a child actor, as well. Their awkward non-romance is part of what supplies the dramatic tension.
But Ezra Miller steals this show, which is not too surprising, considering his incredibly powerful performance in the very-difficult-to-watch “We Need To Talk About Kevin”. This is some great nuancing of a complicated teen role by a kid who’s not too old for the part.
To say more about the plot would give away too much of the content of the film. But this film has a surprising amount of emotional depth. Advertised as a coming-of-age teen flick, and rated PG-13, it might appear to be as lightweight as, say, “Pitch Perfect,” which is being released the same day. But any movie with the tag line “You accept the love you think you deserve” promises more than tenny-bopper mentality. This is about anyone at any age struggling to find out who they are, and to somehow learn to accept the findings.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas