Friday, 12 October 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I saw this film a little by accident and although I wasn’t as impressed with it as some others, I’m glad I saw it. We went to the cinema to see Liberal Arts but after just five days on release, it had been pulled by my local multiplex so we chose Wallflower instead. Charlie (Logan Lerman) is nervous about starting his first day of High School and is already counting down the days until he can graduate. He is smart and shy and has had a tumultuous twelve months which only added to an already painful life. On his first day he manages to avoid trouble but makes just one friend, his English teacher (Paul Rudd) who spots something in Charlie and gives him extra work to do at home. A few weeks into the school year though Charlie starts to become friendly with step siblings Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) which leads to a year of ups and downs on his road to manhood.

I’d describe The Perks of Being a Wallflower as a grower, not a shower. I found the opening few minutes difficult to enjoy and had little to relate to the main characters but as it opened up it really grew on me and I found it charming. It’s as good a High School film as I’ve seen this year and contains some nice messages and great performances.

One of my initial problems with the film is that I found it difficult to relate to the three central characters. I never went to an American High School and school here in the UK is a lot less segregated into social groups. I had friends who were jocks, geeks, Goths, rockers etc so my High School experience was very different to Charlie’s which itself seems to be an exaggeration of the normal US system. I also had trouble relating to Charlie’s personal problems as they too were something that had never affected me. I found it very difficult to put myself in his shoes. As the film progressed though, this mattered less and less as the story and characters developed around me. My second main problem was the David Bowie issue. The three central characters talked continuously about their favourite music with the likes of The Smiths, XTC and The Beatles being mentioned but they had never heard or heard of David Bowie’s Heroes. I know the film was set in a pre-internet age but surely one of them or one of their friends would have known the song? If not, why not hum the tune to their parents. I just didn’t buy it and it turned into quite a sizeable plot hole.

The fact that those were my only real problems goes to show that I did quite like the film. The story grows increasingly complex and the characters all come up against differing problems and barriers. I was especially interested in Ezra Miller’s character’s arc. The third act drama could be seen a mile off which was a shame but when we got to the reveal it was well dealt with. The various relationships which grew and declined were also realistic and well written. The writing on the whole was excellent. Something else I enjoyed were the occasional Rocky Horror scenes, and not just for Emma Watson’s costume, it’s one of my all time favourites and Frank-N-Furter is a role that Ezra Miller was born to play. The soundtrack is also impressive.

The three central actors were all very good although two of them felt a little overpowered by Ezra Miller’s flamboyant performance. He shows here that his turn in We Need to Talk about Kevin was no fluke. He’s an actor with a very bright future. Emma Watson is also impressive but through no fault of her own it’s difficult to see past her Harry Potter character. She goes a long way to put that behind her here though with an adult performance and decent American accent. Maybe when her face begins to look more adult it will be easier to put her child roles out of the mind. She still looks very young. Central actor Logan Lermon isn’t an actor I’ve come across before and underplays his character very well. He is surrounded by larger than life characters but plays his role exceptionally well. I did find it difficult to see past his waxwork like face and striking eyebrows though! Paul Rudd is also great with another understated and less obviously comedic role than we’re used to. Mae Whitman is another who delivers an excellent performance.  

Overall The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a fine film but I wasn’t enamoured with it. There is a lot to like with the script and acting impressing me but there was nothing to push it over into the great category for me and the third act reveal was far too obvious. Plus, It’s David Bowie!!    

GFR 6.5/10


  1. Hmm, I've noticed British viewers seem to be have more trouble connecting with this film. It's quite fascinating. Even though I didn't attend high school in the US, I did do my undergrad degree in a small liberal arts college where I could see the remnants of the cliques. Trust me, this film does not exaggerate. In fact, it may even underplay it. I'm sure Americans can attest to its realism.

    Nice review. Glad you liked the film.

    1. Yeah it doesn't translate brilliantly this side of the Atlantic but it's still a good film.

      Liberal Arts is something else that I don't really understand either to be honest! Is it like humanities subjects or something?

    2. A liberal arts college (we tend to use the term "university" more if the school provides postgrad degrees as well, but it's the same thing) usually only gives undergrad degrees and are aimed at providing a comprehensive, broad education. So you end up doing courses in pretty much everything, regardless of your major. I did unusual courses like "Culture of Chocolate", "Beginning Acting Workshop", "Stagecraft(which I ended up dropping)" in addition to courses in literature, government, music, math, economics, statistics, all the sciences and Spanish.

      Also, unlike in the UK you don't actually apply to do any specific course. You spend the first 2 years doing whatever you want (you have requirements like an Arts course, Humanites course, Natural Sciences course etc) and then you declare your major in the 2nd semester of your sophomore(2nd) year. So, it gives you a lot of freedom to really figure out what you wanna do.

      For example, I started out intending to be a biochemistry major, but by the time I reached the end of 2nd year I was able to switch to environmental studies.

      I wouldn't trade my experience for the world, but the downside is that you end up without many specific skills. We all end up with a Bachelor of Arts degree, even if we majored in science. If you watch the Liberal Arts trailer he says "I was an English major with a minor in History, just to make sure I was fully unemployable". That line is so true for me!

      I hope this all makes sense. :)

    3. Yeah I get it, thanks. I've always thought our degrees were a bit limiting. I have a degree in Politics and International Relations but had no opportunity to study anything outside that. I'd have thought the US system would be better as you can get a broad understanding and try various areas before specialising. I studied just politics from age 21. Cheers!