Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky (and based on his own novel), “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is more than just a vehicle for Emma Watson to separate herself from the Harry Potter series. Neither above nor below average, this is an (to be frank) average high school movie.
Like many a high school movie, this one centers on a protagonist who feels unpopular. Charlie (Logan Lerman) enters high school as a freshman wanting to make a fresh start following some recent tough losses in his life. Despite his feelings of unpopularity, it does not take long for him to find friends, specifically in Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). Charlie, from the get-go, has feelings for Sam, but does not know how to express them, especially since Sam already has a boyfriend.
Things get even more confusing for Charlie once he gets a girlfriend of his own (played by Mae Whitman, who seems to specialize in characters that make the protagonist’s parents say “Her?”). And so the movie goes on from there, filling with drama. Patrick struggles to navigate life as a gay teen, Sam struggles with retaking the SAT, and Charlie wrestles with traumatic memories, as well as his desire for Sam.
And while the movie is never boring, it does unfortunately leave an aftertaste wherein one simultaneously feels that he or she has seen a lot of places and yet never really got to experience any of those places.
Just about every frame of the movie is shot with a soft-focus glow. After the first half-hour or so, one becomes used to it, but thinking about the movie afterward, the whole thing seems to have been done with a similar lack of focus and clarity. This is evident in the way that the location of each scene (and the movie itself, which apparently takes place in Pittsburgh) would often become apparent only as the scene unfolded, creating an unwarranted waste of energy on the viewer’s part to try to figure out such information.
While some of the lack of clarity is intentional (Charlie’s traumatic past is only revealed as the movie continues), much of the confusion is either non-intentional or (if intentional) simply not a good idea. One confusing point was how Charlie’s friends regularly perform with the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at a local theater to sold-out crowds. While the logistics of this are confusing enough, the most confusing part was how Charlie (who is portrayed as still trying to come into his own confidence) is dancing in front of many people in gold underwear. Indeed, one of the main problems with this movie is with its depiction of Charlie as someone who is nerdy and shy and yet does many things that a shy/nerdy person would never do.
In fact, there is something off about the entire movie. Originally rated-R by the MPAA, this movie shows much drug use, violence, and sexual content, but not much in the way of consequence (particularly with drug use). And while it has that typical edge that is apparent in most high school movies, it does not go much deeper than any sort of Disney Channel, Lifetime, or Nickelodeon made-for-TV movie.
2.5 out of 4 stars
103 minutes long
Rated PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens.