Film: More ‘perks’ in ‘Wallflower’ than losses

By Will Ashton |
The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Directed by Stephen Chbosky | Rated PG-13
For a film as nostalgic as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, perhaps it’s appropriate that I look at the film longingly as well.

The film’s main goal in its nostalgia was to reflect on the “life-changing” years that are our high school years, but I look back fondly with this film for two different reasons.

The first is that this was filmed around my hometown of Pittsburgh. It’s fun to see the characters talk about going to Kings restaurant like I once did with my friends or applying to Penn State University much like I did. But the main reason that I am given flashbacks while watching this film is because I was around the set as an extra — for a short period of time — while it was being filmed.

I bring this up not to brag or to say that I understand this movie more than the average viewer, but rather as a disclaimer. I would feel as though I was cheating you if I didn’t bring this up. I’ll keep this short: I got to meet Logan Lerman; Emma Watson and I stared at each other twice, randomly, and she touched my shoulder; writer/director Stephen Chbosky spoke to me once; Ezra Miller may have too, but I’m not sure; I was, briefly, a stand-in for Johnny Simmons; and the 2nd 2nd Assistant director (that’s not a typo) once came up to me and said that he had pictures of me in his phone.

Now that I have that off my chest, let’s talk about the film.

Based on the popular young adult novel by Chbosky, Perks tells the story of Charlie (Lerman), a 15-year-old freshman isolated by the rest of his school. His only friend in high school is his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). That is, until he meets Patrick (Miller), Sam (Watson) and their group of misfits friends, who accepted Charlie for the “wallflower” that he is, and begin to teach him about life and love.

Chbosky decided to not only write the screenplay for his popular novel, but to also direct it as well. It’s safe to say watching this film that he remains more of a writer than a director. His writing, particularly his dialogue, is both very thoughtful and witty, even quite honest at times. As a screenwriter, he is able to translate his rather non-linear story flow pretty well into an hour-and-a-half story.

As a director, however, he does have his problems. Often, the film becomes confused tonally, switching between the two without much breathing room, particularly in the first half. Additionally, he can’t help at times but to fall into the traps and pitfalls of the common high-school drama. This makes a good number of scenes — some of them quite genuine — lack some of their heightened emotional tension due to its predictability.

With this said, Chbosky brings a lot of heart and warmth into this film, and you can tell that he cares deeply for this story and its characters. Especially since they are likely based on his own experiences growing up. Also, he is able to bring out some strong performances out of his cast. The standouts remain Miller, who, once again, blows me way, and Lerman. Between Afterschool, City Island, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and this, I really hope people are starting to pay attention to Miller and that he goes places.  As for Lerman, despite never truly standing out in any of his past films before (*cough Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief cough*) he does give a pretty great performance here, and shows his talents in an effective way.

Forewarning, this film touches on some dark themes. I’m not just talking about teen angst kids — I’m talking child molestation and suicide, to name a few. People expecting a good amount of lighthearted comedy from this film may be disappointed. Not to say that there are not some good laughs in the movie, but don’t expect this to be another Juno, like they are promoting it as.

The film does have some more problem: The editing here is really choppy at times, ending abruptly on scenes even in the beginning, but much like Charlie himself, the film grows more surefooted as the film progresses. The Perks of Being a Wallflower may not be perfect, but it’s worth watching, especially for those who read the book or gravitate towards these types of films.



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