Some films are very similar to those that have gone before, following the same story, based in the same setting, played out by the same type of characters, but manage to stand-out because of the performances. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of these films. It isn’t doing anything too original, it’s a film we have seen many times before, set in an environment that has been done many times too but the performances bring the characters to life in a different enough way to make it work.
There are plenty of films about outsiders/average joes and their experiences with the supposed nightmare that is the American high school. There are plenty of comedies that make any cheerleader, football player, nerd or goth feel like they are in the wrong or plenty of drama’s that still pick on the groups already mentioned but believe they are all hiding something and are as unusual and unique as the our central character. It’s the “its cool to be different” or “just be yourself, you’ll be fine” message that so many films have done before and Wallflower is no different.
There is a little bit of variation to the theme. Its far more dramatic than most films that are set in and around high school and follow the “outsiders” and deals with more mature themes like mental illness and childhood abuse, but for the most part it repeats the usual stereotypes. It has quirky friends, forbidden love, embarrassing friendship changing moments for our main character and a defining, third act redemption. The saving grace is the actors playing the characters.
The characters aren’t exactly original but the actors bring them something fresh and exciting which makes the film much more entertaining and watchable than it may have been otherwise. Our three central characters are all played fantastically. Logan Lerman, whose only other film I remember seeing is the abysmal Three Musketeers remake/reboot, carries the movie very well. He begins quite wooden and straight but gently develops that and works with it, creating a very interesting and creative lead. He gets the chance to show off his acting ability in the final act of the movie, really stretching Lerman’s acting talents and showcasing his potential.
Emma Waston arguably had the hardest job to do. This is the first notable performance she has had since playing Hermione in Harry Potter. She will always be associated with that character and any performance will probably be brought back to the girl-wizard, at least for the foreseeable future. She demonstrates that she is much more than that here though, playing a quirky, damaged and vulnerable teenager who is also the perfect temptation for Lerman’s Charlie. There are some great scenes, especially the tunnel scene, accompanied by David Bowie’s Heroes, where she shines above any other in the cast and makes the film her own. She couldn’t feel further from Hogwarts.
Completing the trilogy of fantastic performances is the actor with the most to do. The character that is the gateway to the world of the “Wallflowers” for Charlie, with his own baggage and checkered past to react and reflect upon is Ezra Miller’s Patrick. The last thing I saw Ezra Miller in was We Need to Talk about Kevin. He played a perfectly creepy and terrifying Kevin in that movie, so to see him play a much more approachable, light-hearted (on the surface at least) character demonstrates his ability as an actor. He steals most scenes he is in and adds an energy to the movie that makes it watchable and interesting, particularly when the story itself isn’t that original.
That isn’t to say the story isn’t good, it’s just been done before. It’s a nice mix of light-comedy and drama. The three central performances make this movie different though and its worth checking out for the three characters and a look at their lives and their friendship.
Overall, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is very similar to a lot of other movies set in high schools with the outsiders as the main characters, commenting on how difficult high school is and how important it is to be yourself. The performances add something extra, bringing familiar characters to life in a very watchable and entertaining way. Its worth viewing for Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)