The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Movie Itself is a Perk

Those who aren’t familiar with Stephen Chbosky’s novel may walk into The Perks of Being a Wallflower knowing simply that it is the movie with “that girl from Harry Potter.”  Walking out of it, however, they will likely be praising it as a funny and charming, yet powerful teen drama.  They’ll probably also be talking non-stop about that talented actress, Emma Watson.

Set in the early 1990s, Perks follows shy high school freshman Charlie as he begins counting down the days until graduation.  Charlie has never had many friends, and those he has had are no longer around for reasons that get explained later on in the story.  He’s also spent some time in the hospital and his family worries that he might start “seeing things” again.  At a football game, Charlie meets up with Patrick, an outcast from his shop class.  Patrick immediately welcomes Charlie as a friend and introduces him to others, including the beautiful and exciting Sam, played by Watson.

Emma Watson as Sam in The Perks of Being a WallflowerThese are essentially the school misfits and they embrace Charlie because he is like them, a little different.  Charlie even begins a relationship with one of the girls in the group, but the fact that it is not Sam causes some problems ahead.  But as great as things seem now that he has friends, the mystery that is Charlie’s past still haunts him and threatens this newly discovered happiness.

Watson is not the only face in the cast that might seem familiar to audiences from somewhere else.  Logan Lerman played the title character in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, a franchise (the second film comes out in 2013) that was once considered “the next Harry Potter” and Ezra Miller was the creepy title character in last year’s much talked about We Need to Talk About Kevin.  As Charlie and Patrick, respectively, both actors instantly separate themselves from their previous characters.  Miller, especially, shows off his range as his character here is nearly the polar opposite of last year’s Kevin.

Then, of course, there is Emma Watson.  Amazingly, Watson is able to make the audience forget she ever played Hermione Granger in an instant.  From the moment she appears onscreen, she is just Sam.   It’s a great character for the actress to start her second career off with and she shines every moment that she is onscreen. Bottom line: the answer to the question of whether she can succeed now that Potter has ended is a resounding “yes.”

The movie is written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, who is adapting his own novel.  Often when a novelist attempts to adapt their own work for the big screen, the results are over-long, wordy, and uncinematic.  This movie, however, is over in a brisk 103 minutes and is visually quite impressive.  The relationship between Charlie and Mary Elizabeth does seem like a tangent and the movie’s sudden dark turn towards the end seemed a little too sudden, but these are minimal complaints for which a first-time director can easily be forgiven.

Making it even easier to forgive the movie’s very few flaws is the fact that it is just so darn entertaining.  It starts with the characters, all of whom are real characters with real problems which the audience can easily identify with and support them through their journeys.  The three lead actors do such a good job of inhabiting their characters that we start to think of them as friends of our own.  We celebrate with them through the highs and suffer with them through the lows.  The movie’s adults shine at times, too, with Dylan McDermott having a couple of great lines as Charlie’s father and Paul Rudd as the kind of English teacher we all wished we had.

The movie’s terrific sense of humor and equally terrific characters raise The Perks of Being a Wallflower above your average high school drama.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is rated PG-13 for “mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens.”  I was surprised that this movie was originally rated R until an appeal to the MPAA dropped it down to PG-13.  All of these elements are present in the movie, but overall, the movie definitely feels more PG-13 than R.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.