Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Netflix This: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

     Obviously there are dozens of coming-of-age films that deal with outsider teenagers and shy boys and girls, films that delve into sex and drugs and the nervousness and embarrassment that some high school students feel on a weekly (if not daily) basis. But of the past few years, I would rank last year's The Perks of Being a Wallflower as one of the best: filled with incredibly strong performances (particularly Logan Lerman in the lead role of Charlie), emotional depth, and a sense of everlasting nostalgia, Perks is well worth a watch for anyone that has experienced love or loss.
     The movie's based on the bestselling book of the same name by author Steven Chbosky. Curiously--and incredibly--the film is also directed by him, too, marking the Renaissance man's first major foray into film making. You'd never know he was a first time director. The plot: Charlie is a bit of a loner, one of those kids who enters school on the first day and sits alone at lunch, pecking away at his food like a little bird as he glances at all of the laughing popular kids.
     Soon enough, he catches the eye of two other semi-outcasts named Sam (Emma Watson, is a breakout role after the Harry Potter series) and Patrick (Ezra Miller, whose frightening turn in We Need to Talk About Kevin was memorable and horrific). These two--at first--seem like a couple, but they're actually step siblings. Throughout some parties, sports events, dances, and drug use, Charlie merges into the friend group that Sam and Patrick are a major part of ("Welcome to the land of misfit toys," Sam tells Charlie, in one of the very few annoying lines of the film). As Charlie grows more comfortable (and with the aid of a pot brownie), he opens up: one of his best friends recently killed himself and he has had a lifelong depression with visions due to a mysterious event in his childhood involving his aunt and a car accident.
     The three main performances are really stellar, and although I haven't read that the book that this film is based on, I can imagine that the portrayals would satisfy any fan of the written word. It's clear that when Charlie sees Sam for the first time, he is completely smitten. Their budding sort-of-more-than-friends relationship never falls for any annoying cliches, and the chemistry between Emma Watson's Sam and Logan Lerman's Charlie is completely palpable. The tension builds into the final third of the film, when secrets are revealed and Charlie's illness comes to the forefront. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was heartfelt and surprising, and it's one of the better films of 2012 that didn't receive much fanfare.

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