Thursday, November 15, 2012
The Perks of Being A Wallflower
Writes Roger Ebert: The movie confirms one of my convictions: If you are too popular in high school, you may become so fond of the feeling that you never find out who you really are. The film is based on Stephen Chbosky's best-selling young-adult novel, which was published in 1999 and is now on many shelves next to The Catcher in the Rye. It offers the rare pleasure of an author directing his own book, and doing it well. No one who loves the book will complain about the movie, and especially not about its near-ideal casting.
The story, set in the early 1990s, tells the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), who begins it as a series of letters to a "friend." He enters high school tremulously and without confidence, and is faced on his first day by that great universal freshman crisis: Which table in the lunchroom will they let me sit at? Discouraged at several tables, he's welcomed by two smart and sympathetic seniors.
They are Sam and Patrick, played by Emma Watson in her own coming-of-age role after the "Harry Potter" movies, and Ezra Miller, who was remarkable as an alienated teenager in "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Charlie makes the mistake of assuming they are a couple, and Sam's laughter corrects him; actually, they're half-siblings. Charlie is on the edge of outgrowing his depression and dorkdom, and is eerily likable in his closed-off way. One of the key players in his life is the dead aunt (Melanie Lynskey) he often has imaginary meetings with.
Ezra Miller is given a disappointing role in this teen agony drama that has a strong flavour of phoniness, says Peter Bradshaw: Those who admired Ezra Miller's performance in Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin, and were eager to see what he did next, are going to be dismayed at the way he has been cast in this passive-aggressive teen agony drama with a strong flavour of phoniness. Miller gets to play the campy-witty gay best friend, who is simply a sacrificial figure; his function is to lend depth to the straight characters' stories. It is 1991, and Logan Lerman (who played the lead in the fantasy movie Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) is Charlie, a sensitive, lonely boy who is just starting out in high school.
Bowie. The Smiths. Angst. "Perks of Being a Wallflower" captures its era perfectly, missing only Matthew Broderick, writes Andrew O'Hehir: Set long ago in a distant land of calf-length plaid skirts and high-waisted pleated jeans – approximately the George H.W. Bush administration – Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” which was first a best-selling novel and is now a film written and directed by the author, thrives on having little or no attitude. Its main characters are a group of high school misfits trying to be cool, an archetype of American culture if ever there was one, who are very far from being the subculture-savvy urban teens of the ‘60s and ‘70s or the ruthlessly plugged-in teens of the 2010s. Their rebellion against life in the middle-class suburbs of Pittsburgh is, in fact, both mild and vague: They’re into the Smiths and they go to midnight audience-participation screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”; when David Bowie’s “Heroes” comes on the radio they’re blown away, but none of them has ever heard it before or knows who the singer is.
Actually, the fact that reformed bad girl Sam (Emma Watson), her gay stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) and their posse of friends aren’t painfully hip or terribly far from the mainstream – just a little bit alienated from their surroundings, and more than a little bit stranded between eras – is precisely the source of the power in Chbosky’s story. His novel was an immediate teen sensation when first published in 1999, and has reportedly sold close to a million copies. (Subsequently he was the driving force behind the short-lived but much-loved TV series “Jericho.”) It’s both fair and necessary to describe Chbosky’s book as a mashup of “Catcher in the Rye” and “The Great Gatsby” transmuted to 1990 suburbia, and indeed both of those novels figure large in the imagination of Charlie, his cryptic protagonist. I’m certainly not putting Chbosky on the same level as Salinger and Fitzgerald, but what he captures along with them is the terrible urgency of youth, those moments in anyone’s life when we begin to grasp that life is in fact happening to us too, and that there is no turning back the clock to childhood.