Movie Reviews

'The Perks of Being a Wallflower': Adorable but clumsy

By Denise CheongMovies - 10 October 2012 9:00 AM

'The Perks of Being a Wallflower': Adorable but clumsy

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

The stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller

The story: An emotionally tormented Charlie (Logan Lerman, ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’) enters high school after the devastating deaths of his Aunt and best friend, and is taken on a whirlwind adventure of love, friendship and drugs with his two best friends Patrick (Ezra Miller, ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’) and Sam (Emma Watson, ‘Harry Potter’).

The buzz: Being the film adaptation of Stephen Chbosky’s best-selling epistolary novel (1999), compounded with the appearance of lovely Emma in her first non-Potter feature, one can imagine the hype that surrounds it. says: Being fans of the book, we walked into the cinema with reasonably high expectations. Lerman’s portrayal of the socially awkward introverted, but quietly discerning “wallflower” Charlie is pretty convincing – but only just. Pale-faced and wide-eyed, the boy comes into high school alone and out of place, until he meets the gay and vivacious Patrick and his ultra-cool step-sister Sam (who graduated from Hogwarts with a confused American accent), and is taken on the most unforgettable adventure of his teenage lifetime.

The film is gelled together by a loose narrative about growing pains – the turbulent emotions of adolescent youth. The execution of the film is generally underwhelming. Chbosky – movie director and author of the novel – is a perfectly adequate, although not the most exceptional director. There were moments that were brilliantly captured, like Charlie’s psychological struggle upon his first sexual encounter with Sam. Others, however, like Patrick’s reckless kiss with Charlie – were fair-to-middling at best. We reckon the poignant nuances of the book were either impossible to translate onto camera, or that he spent a good portion of his budget convincing Hermione to transfer schools.

“Welcome to the island of misfit toys,” Sam says, to a half-baked Charlie at a dingy house party, signaling to cinema spectators the start of a whirlwind drama. Drugs, sex, crushes – ‘Perks’has got them covered, albeit a very Disney-fied version of those vices. If you’re expecting anything like Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem for a Dream’, you’ll be sorely disappointed. After all, the book was written in innocent Charlie’s point of view. By any means, this is not a disservice to the book itself – which, we feel is “infinite”-ly more gratifying than what is seen on screen – but the hard truths of Hollywood payouts ultimately prevail.

The full extent of Charlie’s emotional and psychological damage – stemming from his sexually abusive Aunt Helen’s sudden death and his best friend committing suicide – is not as elegantly executed as it could have been. The occasional injection of blurry flashbacks is always a good idea, but Chbosky’s does not quite cut it. Rather, it lacked dramatic flair and directional instruction. Toward the end of the movie, Charlie’s loneliness and guilt hurriedly culminates in a rushed montage of old memories and ends up in a hospital bed. We felt this could have been slightly more thoughtfully achieved.

Admittedly, it is a smart move to filter out some sub-plots (i.e. Charlie’s family drama) to centre on themes of friendship and loyalty. However, one character that we feel is severely underdeveloped is the role of his English teacher Bill Anderson (Paul Rudd, ‘I Love You, Man’). His role as mentor, counselor and friend was not explored beyond his indulgent book collection and the famous “we accept the love we think we deserve” take-home hook.

That being said, the soundtrack was spot-on. It probably didn’t take long for music advisors to figure that out anyway, since Chbosky’s book was wondrously adorned with references to The Smiths, David Bowie, Sonic Youth, etc. – basically the musings of the mind of your ideal indie girlfriend.

The movie ends gloriously with the reunion of the three musketeers when Sam and Patrick come back from college to visit post-break down Charlie. “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite” – the defining line of the 102 minute-long film was saved for the very last, treating cinema-goers to the iconic ‘tunnel scene’. A bittersweet enough ending to induce a few tears, we confess.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ opens in cinemas on 11 October 2012