The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Sincere and witty coming of age drama
Were space aliens to seek an insight into Earth society via the portal of American pop culture, they might be forgiven for coming away with the impression that boy adolescents bear the upper hand in most things. Blame The Catcher in the Rye, perhaps, but how the sensibilities of the sensitive, jaded, bright, white, middle-class male are stroked and probed! And cinema has it particularly bad.
If you go to the Sundance film festival, they more or less give you an unusually intelligent teenager with divorced parents and a Ritalin prescription to take home with you. Of course, post-puberty you quickly realise that emotional turmoil, insecurity and hormonal disorder aren’t passing phases: no, you’re going to feel this way for the rest of your life AND have to go to work. Yet the myth of ‘coming of age’ persists, and particularly in the movies.
This sincere, romantic take on a seemingly deathless genre benefits from the unusual quirk of have been written as a novel, adapted for the screen and directed by the same person, Stephen Chbosky. That gives the project a purity of voice and intent that works for it well, given its lack of really dramatic plot elements. The important thing is that we are firmly in the characters’ world – a 90s American high school, where young Charlie (Logan Lerman) is negotiating first love and new social strictures in the wake of some personal trauma. Emma Watson, never one of the most inspiring child actors to grace a screen, does display some grown-up charisma as Charlie’s dream girl Sam, though she’s a bit too prissy-seeming to quite cut it as the sexy class swan; and Ezra Miller, the dark beauty from We Need to Talk About Kevin, again steals the show as Charlie’s new best friend, Patrick.
Its romance regarding the significance of teen experience might not work on everyone, but its earnestness, wit and stirring music ought to leave few hearts wholly untouched.
General release from Wed 3 Oct.