Wednesday, January 23, 2013
The Perks of Being Infinitely Awesome.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) / US / Currently undated in NZ / Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, adapted from his novel of the same name / Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Johnny Simmons, Melanie Lynskey, Erin Wilhelmi / 102 mins.
Let me tell you something: when I first read Stephen Chbosky's book The Perks of Being a Wallflower last October, it literally changed my life. And there are probably thousands of teenagers out there who can vouch for the novel in the same way I can. The thing about Perks is that it just seems to capture teen life, without alienating the reader. While it doesn't paint those teenage years to be the most wonderful, even in the darkest stages it doesn't make you feel like this is trivialised account of being a teenager from someone who has forgotten what it's like. I'd be damned if I could find a teenager who didn't connect with even the smallest detail of that beautiful book. Considering it is written through the protagonist Charlie's (played here by Logan Lerman) letters, it was always gonna be a hard deal to try and translate those letters to the screen. Luckily, none other than Stephen Chbosky did it. And here we have it: in 2012 (well, 2013 for me), teenagers could be reminded that everything is going to be okay, one way or another. Thank goodness for Stephen Chbosky.
The story follows Charlie, a wallflower: the kind of person who sees everything but doesn't want to participate. He's a 15 year old who is beginning his freshman year at high school, and is slow to make friends - or even approach the idea of making friends. However, two seniors, the openly gay Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his step sister Sam (Emma Watson) take him in and welcome him to 'the island of misfit toys'. While Charlie's wallflower blossoms in the group, as the film goes on we find out more about Charlie and why he is the way he is, which I dare say makes for some of the most devastating stuff I've ever witnessed.
One thing that always made me smile (actually, I don't know how I felt but I...yeah, I can't explain it) was that people went into this totally blind, not expecting the film to completely shit on them the way it did. That's exactly how I felt when I finished reading the book at 1am, still pretty shaken from watching Blair Witch Project in complete darkness. Seeing it on film didn't make it any less hard (yeah, I was crying like a baby on the airplane). This was largely due to the fact that Logan Lerman was a perfect Charlie. In all honesty, he played that character with as much on point imitation as I suppose Daniel Day-Lewis did in Lincoln. He really understood the character, and even at age 19/20, he still passed for a believable 15 year old. Charlie wouldn't be the easiest character to play, since anyone who didn't really understand him would mistake him for a whiny wimp - but this ain't no Diary of a Wimpy Kid. There's undoubtedly at least one aspect of Charlie that any teenager could connect with. He doesn't have the luxury of being a consistent character, but then again, what teenager has the luxury of consistency?
Supporting Lerman is a great ensemble cast filled with top performances. There's not a lot of characters that have a lot of screen time, like Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh who play Charlie's parents. I don't think that Walsh has any lines, but she manages to give a stellar performance by just falling into the mother role. Melanie Lynskey also has limited screen time, though her presence is always noted because she completely encapsulates the role. The teenagers work basically as a huge ensemble group: Erin Wilhelmi is great as the slightly strange Alice, Mae Whitman is sometimes a little blood-curdling as the manipulative Mary Elizabeth, Johnny Simmons played Patrick's closeted lover Brad with some heart-breaking depth. Nina Dobrev was surprisingly fantastic in the tiny role as Charlie's sister Candace, particularly shown in the scene before everything falls apart. Paul Rudd also has a small role, but come on, who wouldn't want him as their English teacher? However, the film belongs to Charlie and his two best friends, Sam and Patrick. Emma Watson does a pretty good job as Sam, even though she never seems completely at ease with the role like the other stars do. She still has the spark that Sam needs though, so I wouldn't say that she lets anyone down. Ezra Miller is uniformly the stand out (and I'm not just saying that because I love him so very much). Just like Charlie, Patrick is a very difficult character to fully understand and goes through many shifts, and Ezra is able to keep up with it all. This is a very different role to dear young Kevin Khatchadourian, or anything else that Ezra has done thus far, even his other gay character in Every Day. You have to have guts and backbone to play this role, and Ezra has all of that, and then some.
Stephen Chbosky has all of the ingredients he needs to make a fantastic film: his screenplay is very sincere, and in some ways it actually improves on his original material (though several aspects of the book are much better). He has a cast of wonderful people who may be a little older than their characters, but have no trouble playing them. And of course, there's the all important soundtrack, which ties the story up. Since there isn't much mention of Charlie's playlists, the eclectic mix of music is still there, giving us the essence of growing up in the 90s. Everything was pretty much perfect for me. That probably can't be the case for a whole lot of other people, but even on a tiny screen in a bumbling airplane, I still felt infinite watching it. And that's all I could ever ask for.
What I got: