Text Review of “ The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Movie)

I saw this movie with Zero expectations as I didn’t know what it was about or that it was adapted from a novel.
I walked 25 minutes and bought a ticket mainly because of Emma Watson. Although I have seen all the Harry Potter movies, I was not much a fan since I could not stand the character of “Harry”. However, I have noticed Emma Watson since first movie and followed her career.
She has tried several projects since the Harry Potter movies such as “My Week with Marilyn”. While I liked her performances, she has yet to get a breakout role that would jump start her adult career. So, eager with expectation and hope, I tend to try to catch her movies at home or at the theaters. This is same reasons for seeing “Pitch Perfect” staring Anna Kendrick. I am waiting for the next female star in their 20’s.
Is “ The Perks of Being a Wallflower” the film for Emma Watson?  Not exactly…..
This movie falls into the category of “coming of age” movie. You have the main character “Charlie” played by Logan Lerman starting high school. While the movie does not spell it out, it seems to be set sometime in the 80s as can be guessed by the frequent use of cassette tapes. The setting seems to be appropriate since, as I recall, the subjects of child abuse and homosexuality started to slip into mainstream consciousness during the 80s.
Charlie is a kid with psychological problem stemming from tragic experiences that are not clearly explained. While he is smart kid who is thinking of being a writer, he is shy and without friends.    Starting a new school, Charlie is uncertain and worried about how he will survive 3 years of high school.
Then he meets a group of friends who call themselves “Wallflowers”. The “Wallflowers” are misfits all facing uncertainties and are to varying degrees damages from tragic experiences like Charlie. The movie is about the year “Charlie” spends with the “Wallflowers” as they spend their last year of high school. Charlie is a freshman while the “Wallflowers” are seniors.

The movie was a pleasant surprise. While there are some third act reveals, the movie shows the  “coming of age” story through small character moments in which Charlie gets to know the He tags along their last year of high school while overcoming his own past and psychological problem.
So, the movie lives and dies with its characters. This movie succeeds in this aspect as the characters are really charming. One may expect that kids with psychological problems would be portrayed as being “EMO” and irritating.  However, they are portrayed as being surprisingly mature emotionally. They are not afraid of loving to each other and are hopeful. You get to really like the characters.
Overall, the Wallflowers’s performances are good. Emma Watson who plays Sam is especially great. She plays the heck out of “the damaged girl next door who is still hopeful for the future” role.  If she was in a better movie, it may have been something memorable.
There two main problem with the movie.
First, the main character Charlie is not interesting enough to carry the whole movie. The actor Logan Lerman who has done similar role does a decent job. In small character moments, his character is interesting and his chemistry with Emma Watson is great. The problem is that you don’t really care about his journey rather the other  Wallflowers’s journey. What his journey is other than as a new kid/new school story is not clear almost up to the end. And even when it gets clear it does not pack as much punch as it is similar to the other Wallflowers’s story.   It does not help that the movie heavily uses his voice over for exposition and Logan Lerman delivers it flat.
Second, the story seems to be very compressed and sometime segmented. The movie runs for 103 min and tries to fit a year into it. As a result, some events happen quickly and not provided room to fully develop. Some are just dropped. An example would be the story about Charlie’s writing and his relationship with the English teacher played by Paul Rudd. The movie shows just the beginning and end of that relationship and how it impacted Charlie. Charlie says that Paul Rudd was the best teacher he ever had and you don’t get why.
In the movie, Charlie writes letters to some pen pal. This is used as a framing device to tie all the small character moments together and provide a broader sense of time and the meaning. However, this doesn’t work properly.  The audience is just left to follow the small events and not the whole picture. The fact that there is a third act reveal does not help to understand Charlie’s journey. Rather than having an emotional release from seeing Charlie ready to start a new future, you are just left to process the reveal at the end.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a good but not great coming of age movie. It has great high school characters who are not shallow or emo.  In the age of cinema where there are not many high school characters who are neither total idiots nor self-destructive, this is an achievement on itself.  You should go see 


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