We’ve all been there; we’ve all had to face the pressure of being in high school. Few movies manage to truly capture the struggle between what we truly want and what is expected from us, and one example is the hugely underrated 2012 coming-of-age drama, The Perks of Being A Wallflower.
Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller, the film follows Charlie (Lerman), an introvert freshman with a troubled past as he takes on the trials of high school under the wing of graduating seniors, Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Miller). With each character facing his or her own personal struggle, the film covers a wide range of themes like friendship, love, sexuality, suicide, and mental illness.
Based on a 1999 book of the same name by author Stephen Chbosky, the movie boasts a number of great elements, primarily its score and performances.
Logan Lerman portrays Charlie, a closed-in secluded high school student trying to make sense of his past in the wake of his best friend’s suicide. On paper, even though I think Lerman is a fine actor, I wouldn’t have thought of him had I been asked about possible actor to play the part. But boy was I surprised. When I found out about the casting, I thought he’d still do an okay job, but what I saw was far beyond okay. Lerman absolutely shines as Charlie in what is undoubtedly his best role to date. He brings out the innocent naivety of the character all while maintaining the looming sense of danger that surrounds him. He truly encompases the enclosed spirit of a wallflower, garnishing his performance with shear believability and authenticity. Lerman breaks the barrier of actor and audience and addresses the viewer as a confidant, a friend, even, forming an intimate bond that keeps the viewer attached to Charlie all throughout the movie’s 1 hour and 42 minute run. Charlie transcends the confines of a character on paper or on celluloid, becoming something much, much more.
In her post Harry Potter debut, Emma Watson stars as free-spirited and kind-hearted Sam, and I, for one, don’t think she could have picked a better project for herself. While it is palpable in some instances that Watson has yet to master the American accent, she does a good job with her character. The key indicator here is whether she at all reminded me (a long time potterhead) of Harry Potter character, Hermione. She didn’t. Not for one second did I trace a hint of Hermione in Sam, and that speaks volumes for the actress’ talent. As for her performance in the movie, she does a great job helping the viewer explore her sense of unfulfilled potential and regret. As audience, you get the sense that she’s the sort of person who might be written off for being uninteresting on first encounter, but is in fact someone you could relate to. The further along the movie goes, the more we start to identify with Sam as someone trying to get through life. And Watson does a fantastic job bringing out the vulnerability of her character.
Finally, Ezra Miller completes the main cast as spunky and lively Patrick, a gay teen and Sam’s step brother. With his character, Miller adds life to an otherwise bleak setting. He’s truly the life of the party, acting both as comic relief and a teen like so many across the world, vying for love in a society that forbids it. The role feels so effortless for Miller. He seems to ease into it and that makes him so likable as a character.
The ensemble cast also includes Paul Rudd, Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev, Melanie Lynskey, Mae Whitman, Erin Wilhelmi, and Adam Hagenbuch, each of whom delivers good performances, with Rudd as a highlight, playing Charlie’s friend and English teacher.
The gem of the movie is its spirit. The characters come across as authentic and extremely likable and their friendship is one of heart and sincerity and that is quite visible all throught the film.
The mise en scéne perfectly captures the early 90s era where things like drinking and smoking were taboo (not that they aren’t now, but you catch my drift), where things were a bit more serious and a bit more carefree all in the same. Costumes also played a part in celebrating the decade.
Lighting was an interesting aspect of the film. I loved the use of a dim yellow light throughout most of the movie. It gave the scenes a sense of warmth that was perfectly intimate for this movie.
The score is another element to be commended. It captured the essence of Perks, providing music from the likes of David Bowie and The Smiths that quite fittingly encompass the world of the film. I’ve personally downloaded the entire soundtrack, and that’s always a good sign!
The movie would not be what it was without its writer and director, Stephen Chbosky who, in his directorial debut, manages to makes a name for himself. His love for his characters and his book is noticeable. As cheesy as it sounds, the film was made with pure loveand raw emotion, and that comes down to great writing (should have gotten an Oscar nod for Best Adapted Screenplay), a fantastic cast, beautiful music, and sense of infinity that stays with you. I’m pretty sure I’ll be scolded for this, but the movie is even better than the book. In a nutshell, it captures the sense if being infinite a lot better than the book does.
If I were to criticise one thing, it would be that the movie lends itself to some extremes, but that in no way takes away from its beatifully-told story. The Perks of Being A Wallflower celebrates the small moments and hails the socially-awkward like no other movie in recent years. Till today, it stands as one of the most underrated movies of 2012. An experience more than a film, The Perks of Being A Wallflower is a must-see coming-of-age gem.
Image Sources: en.wikipedia.com, goldderby.com, hollywood.com, popcornaddiction.com, rebloggy.com, fanpop.com, a-subtitled-life.blogspot.com
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