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:

21 comments:

  1. Welcome back my friend!
    I loved this film and the review. Admittedly I read this book a bit too late, but it was pretty awesome, and the film for me at least, was even better.
    Lerman and Miller *are* standouts, though having rewatched it, I think I appreciate the former even more.

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    1. I loved Lerman, perhaps a little more than Miller. He just killed it in that role. He was perfect.

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  2. Yay, I was pretty much 100% sure you'll love the film so.. No surprises here. Welcome back!

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  3. Nice to have you back- your Japan pictures look great!
    I loved Perks of being a wallflower, a definite highlight of last year in film for me!

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    1. Thanks!

      Perks was such a highlight of 2012 as a whole. It was such an underrated gem.

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  4. I'm glad you finally got to see this! I never read the book when I was a teenager, but I wish I had. I really hope to see more and more of Ezra Miller after this. He's just fantastic.

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    1. I keep telling all of my friends to read it - it is just the perfect thing for teenagers! Ezra's only got one film in production at the moment :( Hope he gets to it a bit more!

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  5. The hype for this has piqued my interest

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    1. As it should - I'm glad some people have given it some hype, because the marketing wasn't all that inspiring.

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  6. Loved this one too. It didn't make my top 10 list, but it's one of my favorites from last year.

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    1. Ah, it is my number two currently. Too awesome.

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  7. A strange film in many ways thanks to seemingly being a result of combining a high school memoir with “Prozac Nation”, but it is one only made weirder by the unbounded love for the 80’s with the soundtrack being especially resonant with this, seeing nearly every song on the soundtrack is a noteworthy 80’s classic, which made me wonder if this was something to do with the book being released or set in the 80’s. This is not the case seeing how the book was released in 1999 while the setting would seem to be like the film a modern one. So hence we get such scenes such as a high school prom grooving away to “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, a record which would more than likely sparked a riot than mass dancing had it been played at my school (though perhaps it was just my school). The scene which really grinded my gears was the tunnel sequence, were “Heroes” by David Bowie plays on the radio leading to Sam squealing “What is this song?”. Are we to honestly believe that she could have never have heard of this song let alone not recognise the silky tones of Bowie?!?

    It was touching to see the subject of teenage homosexuality being handled minus any of the usual predictable cliché’s while Miller once more shows himself to be on the same incredible form we saw in “We Need To Talk About Kevin” as every scene he appears in only threatens to steal the film completly. Still it can’t be said that the same care is given to the groups tepid impersonations of Rocky Horror characters they perform at during screenings shown at various points of the film, which also possibly had to be the least frenzied group of Rocky Horror fans I have ever seen, especially having been to several of these kinds of screenings which trust me are awhole lot more fun than they seem here in this film.

    My main problem though with the film as I essentially stated here is that the film constantly seems to be trying to make these self-confessed misfits seem as hip as possible, while dabbling occasionally on more heavier subjects such as drugs, suicide and homosexuality and while Lerman is highly believable as Charlie he only made me all the more thankfull that he was an interesting enough lead to distract from the sheer amount of pretention on show here, especially from Watson whom once again left me find myself left bored by her performance, while her character makes for an unbelievable object of lust for Charlie considering the only thing they seemingly share outside of the group intrests is an interest in old records.

    One to approach with caution for myself.

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    1. Wow, that was an essay and a half. While I respect your opinion, I have to disagree. It was just a great film from a teenager's point of view.

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  8. I'm sure the book goes into character discriptions way better, because there were moments that felt a little lost for me. Near the end Charlie has a freak out that came out of nowhere. I understood that it had to do something with his friend and aunt, but they kind of candy coated those moments. Not saying I need a Lars Von Trier style to them, but showing more then just quick flashback would help. I also never understood why Sam would be in love with Charlie. I get why he is with her, but the character really did nothing to make me like him He tries to hard to be nice instead of being honest,and that bothered me. I'm glad Japan was fun.

    Look forward to your next post

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    1. Yeah - the book has better descriptions of everything you said. Basically, Charlie's freak out came from something he'd been bottling up for a long time. Everything got a little too overwhelming for him, especially when Sam was rubbing his leg and this reminded him of what his Aunt did to him as a child - his Aunt molested him. Of course, there was only so much they could get away with in the film, and even the book doesn't get into great deal.

      One of Charlie's personality traits is that he is aiming to please everyone without ever thinking of himself. Sam pulls him up on this. This may sound like a good trait to have, but I am extremely similar to Charlie and sometimes that makes me come off as a generally weak person. This book dared me to change that aspect, which is something I've been working on for the past few months (though my friends still pull me up on it all the time).

      I'm not entirely sure of why Sam is in love with Charlie, but I think it is because she finds him different to the other guys she's dated (again, that isn't explained very well in the movie) and she also wants to help Charlie (like through the being nice vs. being honest thing).

      Anyway, hope that's cleared a few things up for ya, sorry for the essay!

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  9. If you loved it on an airplane, you'll love it even more on the big screen (or if you can't catch it there, at least on DVD). The movie totally took me aback too, I actually just went in it because posters were plastered all over London and because of Emma Watson.
    Also, I fell in love with Ezra Miller - although he played a gay character. That's kind of an achievement for him.

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    1. I don't think this is ever coming out in cinemas here - so DVD it is!

      Have you seen We Need to Talk About Kevin? Good lord he is so attractive in that, but he plays such a sinister character.

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    2. No, but I've been wanting to ever since I saw this one, haha.

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  10. This movie WAS infinitely awesome, and severely underrated. I would have hoped the Academy would acknowledge Ezra Miller for his performance, or even the directing/best adapted screenplay. It exceeded my expectations tremendously! Glad you liked it too :) Good review, girl!

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    1. Severely underrated. It really should have got more love - especially more love from the Indie Spirit awards!

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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