Like that weird kid in highschool who listened to Death Cab For Cutie before they were cool, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (Perks) sneaks in unnoticed amongst the end of year blockbusters, but with a gift far more rewarding than your generic popcorn flick. You leave Perks with the kind of feeling you expected to have leaving The Master: the undeniable pang of having experienced something important played out before you on a movie screen. It follows Charlie (Logan Lerman) a troubled young kid desperate to make friends during his first high school experience. And he does, albeit not your conventional teens. “Welcome to the island of misfit toys,” purrs the beautiful Sam (Emma Watson), a free spirit with a reputation. Adding to that is her gay step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller), who is secretly in a relationship with the school’s football hero Brad (Johnny Simmons). Throw in their Buddhist/punk buddy Mary Elixabteh (Mae Whitman) and Charlie suddenly finds a home amongst the quirky seniors who introduce him to sex, drugs and rock’n’roll (literally).
An ode to the lonely, the source material is brought to life by a massive ensemble cast that breath soul and emotion into the characters. Watson shows she knows how to choose a movie post-Harry Potter and she’s magnetic as the pixie nymph dream girl here. Then there’s all the minor but no less magnificent supporting performances, namely Simmons, Whitman, Nina Dobrev, Nicholas Braun, Melanie Lynskey, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, and Ezra Miller because Ezra Miller! It’s a cute piece of casting having Paul Rudd, who first made it big in timeless highschool flick Clueless, playing the English teacher is this – a timeless highschool flick for a new generation. Despite the obvious supernova that is Ezra Miller, the other real stand out – and surprisingly so – is Lerman. As someone who never made much of an impact in Percy Jackson and The Three Musketeers, I had always discounted him into the Alex Pettyfer category of ‘meh’. Yet in Perks he gives a performance that will travel with him throughout the length of his career. He displays the talent of a remarkable character actor who has the ability to take the audience to the precipice with his measured and powerful performance.
Having never read the critically acclaimed book that the film is based on, I went into this off the trailer alone (which depicted a by-the-numbers highschool movie about ‘finding yourself’). What I discovered was something else entirely. It took over a decade for Perks to find its way to the big screen, mainly because author Stephen Chbosky fought to write and direct the film himself. It’s a battle we can be all glad he won because despite being set in the nineties, Perks has the kind of messages and sentiment that can be felt 5, 10, 20 years from now. It’s a film about kids that handles some seriously hardcore adult issues. Yes, it’s full of those rite-of-passage teenage moments: your first kiss, the first time you do drugs, losing your virginity, your first love and so forth. But then it goes further. By the end, the film has handled everything from homosexuality and domestic violence, to suicide and sexual abuse.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower feels like a timeless and profound piece of cinema that will go on to affect generations of dreamers and outcasts alike.
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz