Time Out Rio de Janeiro

The Perks of being a Wallflower

The Perks of being a Wallflower

Date 19 Oct 2012-16 Dec 2012

Opens 19 Oct 2012

Director Stephen Chbosky

Cast Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson

It is easy to see how a film like The Perks of Being a Wallflower will evoke memories of the golden years of adolescence; set in those formative high school years, it has that distinct ‘coming of age’ nostalgic feel. But with nostalgia being the thing that triggers only the good memories and glosses over the bad, Perks makes sure it addresses both the positive aspects and also the negative pitfalls of fledgling adult life; the metaphorical roller coaster that defines ‘growing up’.

Someone familiar to most of us is that enigmatic, but oft misunderstood, kid who is outcast from those at the top of school’s ruthless hierarchy and here Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, fulfils the role with a convincingly sincere performance. The plot is also fairly standard material; high school threatens to hinder Charlie, a freshman, until he is taken under the wing of seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) and thus his role as outsider is inverted as he becomes accepted into their "island of misfit toys" and finds a sense of belonging.

The film avoids the pitfalls of schmaltz by punctuating the buzzing joy of newfound friends with a sensitive, but sinister look at the troubling issues of suicide, domestic abuse, homophobia and depression that lie under the veneer of vibrant adolescence. References to Charlie’s past and ominous flashbacks hint at a boy blighted by a trauma, but with the secret kept until the finale, its hard not to start willing on the underdogs.

The course of the whole movie is essentially a poignant overarching rite of passage for Charlie who, prior to high school, is left bereft of his best friend and wallows in the depths of a social recluse, but by the end, appears to enjoy life for all the hope and possibility it brings. Numerous novel experiences see his virginity for a number of different things stripped, from his first awkward attendance of an American football game, to the comic delving into recreational narcotics. The most memorable scene is shared by the three main characters where the vitality of youth is delicately embodied in a quasi-Titanic style (off the back of a pickup, rather than on a huge ocean liner).

Strong performances from all three main characters makes for an on-screen chemistry that glows brightly. Lerman avoids the potential creepiness of a loner, instead building a bumbling, innocent character who has to tussle with a host of emotions. Watson throws herself into the role as the free-spirited and flirtatious Sam and in doing so puts to bed the last demons of Hermione, while the infectiously camp Miller wins the prize for best smile accompanied by his giddy personality. All of which does, then, beg the question how such an attractive bunch could, in reality, be condemned to their clique of misfits.

Some might dismiss Perks as fodder for the younger generation, but there is a universal appeal. Even the most thick-skinned will swoon at the well-selected soundtrack including the Smiths and Bowie who, with their twangy indie guitars, feed into the action. Nonetheless, the subtle darkness of the film still gives Perks the bittersweet mark of a feel-good film that doesn’t leave you feeling overly good about it.

Words by Geoffrey Chang

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