It’s been quite a while since we have had a truly great teen/high school film. While there have been some good ones over the last couple of years, but none of them haven’t quite make it on the level that so many of classics from the genre (THE BREAKFAST CLUB, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMOUNT HIGH, SAY ANYTHING, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY etc.) have done in the past. The last one I could think of that reached that status for me was the 2007 Oscar-winning film JUNO (although some people would probably disagree with that but that’s just my opinion). So when it came to the film THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, I just expected it be just another solid but if not particularly memorable high school comedy/drama. However what I did end up getting was something better. Not only did it end up being the best high school film I’ve seen in years, it’s also one of the best films of 2012 as well.
The film tells story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy, quite and lonely young teenager who is starting his first year as a freshman in high school. He finds his first few days of high school very tough and hard to fit in, the only person he seems to find a friendship with is his English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). However his life changes one day when he meets two seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and her gay step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller), who are the outsiders of their school. When both Sam and Patrick start to get to know Charlie, they decide to take them under their wing and let him join their group of friends.
After reading the synopsis, you would think that this was going to be a simple straight-forward high school film. While that is true in some degree, but there is a lot more to than it which I didn’t expect at all and that made it an even more rewarding experience (this is one of those rare occasions where the trailer doesn’t give away much at all, which was quite refreshing). This was absolutely fantastic, funny and surprisingly moving film that perfectly captures what it was like to go through and the friendships that we form in high school. While my high school life was a quite different from the film’s characters but there were aspects about it I could definitely relate to. There’s were some moments during the film that rang true to me and it reminded me of things that happened to both myself and my friends in high school. I believe this is all due to the film’s writer/director Stephen Chbosky (who also wrote the novel that this film is based on), who does an absolutely terrific job. He brings an honesty and truthfulness to both the characters and story, which felt very relatable to me.
I found it quite refreshing since most films in this sub-genre come across as either artificial or fake (from what I understand Chbosky’s novel is semi-autobiographical, which you sense while you watching it since there are a lot of elements that felt authentic). His direction is also wonderful, he directs with both confidence and visual flair. Also he perfectly balances both the film’s drama and humour extremely well without it ever feeling tonally uneven or jarring . One thing that surprised me most about the film is that it has some darker elements which I didn’t expect at all, which I thought added a lot of more emotional weight to the story (I’m happy that Chbosky didn’t shy away from these aspects). Chbosky’s screenplay is exceptionally well written, the story is superbly crafted and he brings a lot of complexity and depth to his characters. Plus it helps that he terrific young cast on display to play these characters.
Logan Lerman gives an outstanding performance as our lead Charlie, I’ve liked him in a couple a films that I’ve seen him in over the last couple of years and it was good to see him challenge himself as an actor with this role, it got under the skin of Charlie and he did a great job. Emma Watson is absolutely wonderful as Sam, she brings a lot of interesting layers to her role which I thought added more depth to the character. She was terrific in every scene she was in (it was a good role for her to stripped away from her HARRY POTTER image). But the performance that stood out for me the most was Ezra Miller’s role as Patrick, his performance here is a complete 180% when compared to his chilling performance as the title character in the 2011 film WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. I honest couldn’t believe both performances were from the same person, it just shows how much range Miller has as an actor. He stole every scene he was in and he also brings a lot of the film’s hilarious humour. While his character could have been the clichéd gay character, like all the other characters in the film he brings a lot of complexity to his role as well.
The rest of supporting cast did a really good in their roles: Paul Rudd gave a really good performance as Charlie’s English teacher Mr. Anderson, I really enjoyed Mae Whitman performance as Mary Elizabeth and while the adult stars of the film (Kate Wash, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Lynsky, Joan Cusack) don’t really have many scenes but they make the most of what they have and they all turn in solid performances (also I have to give props to Chbosky for casting Tom Savini in the role of a teacher, which I thought was pretty awesome). Another thing I loved about the film was soundtrack, which was fantastic and a lot of the songs are used extremely well in the film (David Bowie’s classic song “Heroes” was used rather effectively). The score was terrific, the cinematography was beautifully done and there are so many great scenes and lines of dialogue though out it (I found the ending particularly moving).
In terms of negatives, I have to be honest really don’t have many. The only thing that I could think of is as I said before, I thought that most of the adult characters that where in the film were a bit underused and they weren’t really given much to do (Wash and McDermott are a example). However at the same time I can understand why that is. They aren’t the main focus of the film, it’s our three young leads who are. Especially Charlie since we are seeing everything that’s happening in the film from his point-of-view. So I can forgive the film on those grounds. Although a little part of me would’ve liked to have seem more scenes with them and as well as some other characters too.
Overall I absolutely loved THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, to me this film captures everything that a teen/high school film should be and I would highly recommend everyone to check out. It’s one of my favourite films of year and I can definitely say for sure that it will without a doubt have a spot in my top 10 best films of 2012 list. I really loved it that much.
Review written by Bede Jermyn