“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” – Review By Zachary Marsh (The FilmWizard)

Everyone is or has been nervous about starting up their first year in high school. Friends you had in middle school don’t talk to you, it’s a bigger environment, and you’re surrounded by sex, drugs, language, and older kids on a constant basis. Being the new kid in school can be terrible, but as Paul Rudd’s character says in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower,’ “If you make at least one friend on your first day then you’re doing OK.” Well, not everyone makes new friends on the first day of school, including the main protagonist in the movie named Charlie. Charlie is like any teenager going into high school for the first time: scared and nervous. Once he finds friends that let him in, life becomes easier for him. This is a film that, while it takes place in the 90s, can relate to any teenager of this generation. As bold as this may sound, it’s going to be put out there any way: ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is the first film of the new decade to defy this generation, along with the last few as well. Not only that, but this dark, relatable, and sweet movie is one of the best to come out this year.

Charlie is about to start his freshman year of high school with some history behind him. He’s had a rough past, and due to this nobody wants to hang out with him. Nobody, other than the teachers, will even talk to him or recognize that he’s in their presence. He is the outcast that nobody wants to be. Then he stumbles into the lives of Sam and Patrick. Patrick is an outgoing person who wants everyone to just feel comfortable and with the crowd. His strangeness makes him the friend everyone would want to have. Sam is his step-sister who, like Patrick, wants to help everyone fit in. Both of these seniors have dark secrets lying inside of them, but that’s all unfolded throughout Charlie’s freshman year.

It was an interesting choice to have Stephen Chbosky not only direct this film, but write it too. People will probably ask: Who is Stephen Chbosky? The reason why he’s an interesting choice to practically bring the movie to life is because he wrote the book for which the movie is based on. Rarely is that ever done in movies anymore, but when it’s done it can be done brilliantly. Chbosky is a first time director, but clearly it shows that he knew what he was doing in every single frame of the movie. It’s even shocking, maybe even frightening, in his screenplay of how relatable the film is to our everyday lives. There is a lot of clever and funny dialogue presented in here, but there’s also some dark and really powerful material as well here. If the year can’t find anymore great screenplays like this, or even have one remaining spot open, Chbosky hands down deserves a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at this year’s Oscars. He truly is the star of the movie, other than the actors who play the characters he created.

Logan Lerman plays possibly the most relatable character of the year thus far, and his name is Charlie. Charlie is a character that’s had a lot of bad stuff happens to him between his childhood and his current state for which the audience meets him in. Lerman flat out is terrific in this movie, giving the best performance of his career by far.  The character of Charlie almost reminded me of Adam Sanlder’s character in the film ‘Punch Drunk Love.’  Both performances are subtle through most of the movie, but their emotions sometimes get the best of them, which leads into some crazy situations.  What makes the performance and the character so interesting is how powerful and relatable they feel to the audience.

It’s almost frightening in some ways of how Charlie can relate to everyone who sees (or reads if one read the book) his character and how he reacts to certain things. Having gone through emotional pain myself, I can say that Charlie is the type of person whom I would actually want to be friends with, had he existed in the real world.  I have felt like I wasn’t meant to be here in my hometown before when my friends sort of ignore me.  It’s a terrible feeling to have, so that’s why it felt so good to me when Sam and Patrick bring this lonely character into their lives.  It just makes the audience feel warm inside, and for the lonely people in the world, as if they have something to live for.  This feeling couldn’t have been achieved so well without the equally as brilliant supporting work from Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.

For Watson, this is her first major role outside of the widely successful ‘Harry Potter‘ franchise, and the first time she’s using an American accent on film. She gives the least impressive performance of the three leads, but that isn’t a bad thing by any means. Watson also gives a stellar performance as Sam, the girl best friend of Charlie. Her performance is subtle, but effective as well. Just her reactions when Charlie tells her something drastic are great and feel real. However, Watson does need to work on her American Accent a little more. A couple of times her British accent peaked out to say “hello,” but that’s only a minor complaint. Watson was good indeed, but like I said before, she was the weakest of the three leads. While Lerman was also great, it was Ezra Miller who stole the show for me.

Ezra Miller gives a standout performance as Patrick. He’s the basic comedic relief in the film, but the best thing about him is that he doesn’t use profanity or sex jokes to get a good laugh. The comedy feels genuine, and he brings it hard. When his character goes through much more emotional stuff, Miller pulls that out of the park and makes the audience happily sympathize with this confused high school senior. I haven’t seen ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin,’ but what I have seen is how talented this actor is, and how he deserves more work after this. Hell, all three of the leads deserve more dramatic roles after this movie. The other supporting actors, including Johnny Simmons and Paul Rudd, are also very good in the movie, helping bring the emotional punch to the story when the time calls for it. However they don’t even match the quality of star-power performances given by Lerman, Watson, and Miller. Just simply brilliant.

‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ doesn’t feel like a movie while watching it. Instead it feels like an alternate version of your life, for the better and for the worse. It’s superbly acted by its three main leads, which make their performances feel both real and genuine. The story knows when to be light-hearted and when to be really serious, sometimes shockingly dark. Writer/Director Stephen Chbosky is the true star of this movie, giving the world a true work of modern art, possibly earning him at least a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination when awards season comes to say hi. For all of those who felt like they were outsiders at any time in their lives, they will watch this movie and feel like they’re in a warm blanket at home because of how inviting these characters and this story are. In short, I freaking love this movie. It’s one of the best movies of the year, and the best dramatic coming of age story since ‘The Breakfast Club.’  That might be a bold as hell statement, but those are the best words I could use to describe this feeling of infinity.

9.5/10

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