The biggest strength of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is that it feels real. It circles around its characters—offering emotional insights, sweet moments, and personal revelations—but never once manipulates them into misrepresentations. All the while through this movie’s duration, I believed these characters. Even more so, I knew them.
In one of the most accurate portrayals of high school in an American film, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a movie adapted from a very popular book of which I have never read but have heard great things about. And seeing this film, written for the screen and directed by the book’s author Steven Chbosky, is just another mode of convincing me this story is one worth telling.
‘Perks’ tells the story of freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman), who enters high school after struggling with both the suicide of his best friend and developments of a distressing mental illness. Feeling alone and helpless, Charlie is a stranger at school until he comes upon a charismatic pair of senior stepsiblings, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), who invite him to become a part of their group.
The group is a close-knit collection of friends, all having known each other for quite some time, who welcome Charlie as one of their own almost immediately. It is a sweet natured truism that feels genuine for anybody who has ever felt left out until finally being accepted. Especially for anyone who has ever been down to the low levels of emotion that Charlie is experiencing early in the film.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” speaks in great depth about a wide variety of adolescent topics—from loneliness, to young love, to closeted homosexuality. And never does the film feel forced or heavy-handed in its dramatic material, but rather remarkably candid. When the movie finally reaches its emotional payoffs, they work because the film has earned its sentiments. By the end, the characters feel just as real as everybody sitting around you.
While the material is strong, the true appeal comes from the film’s talented trio of young actors. Lerman perfectly embodies the unstable personality of Charlie, and as love interest Sam, Emma Watson follows up her “Harry Potter” years with absolute ease and loveliness.
But the highlight for me is Ezra Miller as Patrick, a young, gay individual with flamboyance and fragility alike. His character is well rounded, yet Miller gives the performance an astounding gravity. Following up his terrifying turn as the titular problem child in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” Miller is almost unrecognizable here—signs of a chameleon-like actor we should all keep a close eye on.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is an all-around lovely film—emotionally resonant and powerfully authentic. It treats its characters with respect and delicate examination, and as a result the entire film feels like a visit with loved ones. It’s a film that makes you feel warm, especially for those who are wallflowers themselves. It’s a film delightfully true to the spirit of The Beatles, reminding us that all we need are love and in times of trouble, what we ultimately require to get by is a little help from our friends.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.