Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' Watch: Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart Go On In The Run In Red Band Trailer For 'American Ultra' The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival The Top 10 Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions 5 Innovative Ways The Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard 'Macbeth' Differs From Previous Versions New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ Cannes Awards Winners: Jacques Audiard's 'Dheepan' Wins Palme d’Or; Rooney Mara Ties For Best Actress With ‘Carol’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season 10 Movies Booed At Cannes 10 Movies Booed At Cannes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' A Touching, Fresh & Funny Take On Teenage Love & Life

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist September 19, 2012 at 3:40PM

Teenagers have generally not been well served by the movies. Folks like Cameron Crowe, John Hughes and Judd Apatow aside, adolescent life is usually positioned around the goals of having sex, partying and getting into outlandish hijinks with little-to-no actual insight into how teenagers think or feel. In fact, it has been a long time since we've really had a movie that got it right, but delivering beyond expectations, "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" is about as authentic as it gets, bringing a fresh, funny and moving look at the ups and downs of friendship and family in high school.
0
Perks Of Being A Wallflower Logan Lerman

Teenagers have generally not been well served by the movies. Folks like Cameron Crowe, John Hughes and Judd Apatow aside, adolescent life is usually positioned around the goals of having sex, partying and getting into outlandish hijinks with little-to-no actual insight into how teenagers think or feel. In fact, it has been a long time since we've really had a movie that got it right, but delivering beyond expectations, "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" is about as authentic as it gets, bringing a fresh, funny and moving look at the ups and downs of friendship and family in high school.

As a freshman, Charlie (Logan Lerman) has it tougher than most. Aside from the usual unspoken divisions between the various cliques that roam the halls, Charlie has to do it all without his best friend, who committed suicide without leaving a note. This has contributed to some bona fide and serious mental problems that he is still working through, but he enters his new school with a slight bit of optimism. His English teacher (Paul Rudd) is encouraging his love of writing and books, and Charlie comes into the orbit of two seniors who take him under their wing, the lovely Sam (Emma Watson) and eccentric, bighearted and gay Patrick (Ezra Miller).

Perks Of Being A Wallflower Emma Wastson

"Welcome to the island of misfit toys," Sam says to Charlie, introducing him to her wider circle of friends, and the description is accurate. Each in their minor or major ways have been navigating their teenage years while harboring various secrets that are continual aches and thorns in their sides. From Patrick's relationship with the closeted quarterback Brad (Johnny Simmons), to Sam's own involvement with an older man that leaves her true personality sidelined, it's with each other that they find solace, comfort and affection. But this is hardly a pity party. Within this group they are comfortable to be who they are, allowing them to survive the slings and arrows that come from the bumps in the road or even their own classmates, and embrace who they are.

Based on the book by Stephen Chbosky, who also directs, it could be the benefits of having the author do double duty that allows 'Perks' to be as good as it is. What Chbosky understands is that a high school year in the life of a teenager isn't a few big dramas but instead is made up of lots of small episodes of joy and sorrow, especially as these kids learn about the heartbreak and compromises that come with growing older and learning who you are. 'Perks' presents teenagers as actual people, in all their complicated, messy and endearing ways, and it's this quality that pushes the film far beyond your standard entry in the genre.

Perks Of Being A Wallflower Emma Watson Logan Lerman

That Chbosky gets great turns out of all three leads certainly helps. Watson is solid as Sam who is still figuring out just what she deserves out of a boyfriend and out of life, while Miller will rightfully get a ton of attention for his irresistible and hilarious performance, which generates the film's biggest laughs. It's a flashy part, and Miller proves himself to be an actor everyone will want to continue to watch with a turn that always stays on the right side of becoming a caricature. But it's Lerman who really emerges as the strongest of the pack, with an arc that (without spoiling anything) goes to some emotionally very tough places, and he hits perfectly the notes of a kid who is dealing with love, deep pain, the exhilaration of finding yourself, and fear of losing everyone who understands you, all in a character that is very often contained and small (he's a wallflower, remember).

But again, it's Chbosky knowing this material inside and out that gives 'Perks' its shape and feel. Set in the early 1990s, anyone who grew up during that time will enjoy the little touches, with this writer getting a big laugh out of Charlie's attempt to make a mixtape foiled by the cassette running out before the song ends (also, mixtapes as codes of communication are another element that is right on point). The Pittsburgh locations also help, with the various hangouts and homes that serve as the backdrop feeling lived in, not afraid to reflect the affluent background of these kids, but never diminishing their various struggles, which are true of anyone who has felt not quite comfortable in their own skin. And of course there's the music, with a carefully curated soundtrack by Alexandra Patsavas, that hits the necessary emotional cues while never overselling them.

If we're overly focused on the feeling of 'Perks,' that's because it's the biggest takeway from what is also an undeniably entertaining and charming picture. Nuance might be another appropriate word, because that's the quality as a director that Chbosky brings that allows this material and the film to take what are many standard elements of the coming-of-age story, and find a different approach. The story also successfully plumbs some very dark thematic developments, and navigates its way through humor and drama with ease. Touching and brimming with the energy, enthusiasm and tides of teenage love and life, 'Perks' could very well be the next classic of the genre. [A-]

This is a reprint of our review from TIFF.

This article is related to: Review, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates