Friday, February 15, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Emma Watson is a sassy high-schooler a million miles from Hogwarts in this young adult adaptation, writes Henry Barnes in It's easy to be snippy about this sort of wholesome drama, all tied up neatly by a hokey revelation in time for the ride home. But The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a perfect fit for its target audience – the Harry Potter kids who are following Emma Watson through her baby steps towards the stronger stuff. She's fine in this – confident in a role that lets her flirt with real world danger more than the school rules at Hogwarts would allow.

Patrick, Sam and Charlie are urbane enough to seem desirable, innocent enough to spark recognition. Adults will find themselves shredding the seat rests through the earnest discussions about first kisses, the passionate soliloquy on the merits of vinyl, but it's not for them, it's for early teens, out from under Harry's shadow and looking for something with less magic, and a tiny bit more bite. They could do worse than to give this a spin.
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Ezra Miller is given a disappointing role in this teen agony drama that has a strong flavour of phoniness, writes Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian: 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. He gets taken under the wing of sassy step-siblings Patrick (Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) and soon finds the resulting emotional triangle just as painful and complex as the loneliness he'd left behind. Sam is supposedly much hipper than her crass classmates, being into the Smiths and Dexys Midnight Runners. And yet, bafflingly, she does not recognise David Bowie's Heroes when it comes on the car radio. Patrick is catty and bitchy, but his inner life is a mystery. The theme of child abuse lingers and is there to underline the overwhelming importance of all that is happening – common or garden-variety unabused loneliness is, of course, nowhere near dramatic enough – but the drama fails to absorb this theme, or to do justice to it. The movie has its moments of soap-opera excitement, but it has all the substance of a teenage strop, and none of the energy.
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Writes Roger Ebert: All of my previous selves still survive somewhere inside of me, and my previous adolescent would have loved "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." The movie has received glowing reviews, and some snarky ones that seem to have been written by previous adults. The film is about an alienated high-school freshman who sees himself as a chronic outsider, and then is befriended by a group of older kids who embrace their non-conformist status.

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.
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