“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” wasn’t the best, but it had its merits
I didn’t want to show my movie club The Perks of Being a Wallflower that week. But the movie I had chosen didn’t have subtitles for it, so I quickly looked to YouTube for a free movie we could watch instead. Upon seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I immediately clicked on it. I wanted to watch as many coming-of-age films before I turned 18, and I knew that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a cult classic.
I had read the book when I was in seventh grade, which, looking back, I think was too early to have read it. I was so young that I was only able to relate to it on a limited level, and I remembered little of it. Nevertheless, I was eager to watch it five years later.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) directed by Stephen Chbosky, also the author of the book, follows Charlie (Logan Lerman) through his first year of high school as he navigates friendships, love, and past trauma. Shy and nervous at first, seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) welcome him into their group of tight-knit misfits, where he gains confidence as well as a crush on Sam. I’ll be judging this film based on its plot, script, cast, characters, and music, assigning a score out of five to each movie element.
The plot earns a four. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a joyous celebration of youth that I enjoyed. Like many movies of the same genre, it features high school drama, high school dances, and high school parties, but the focus on Charlie’s traumatic childhood adds a deeper level to the story. I did want to see more interactions between Charlie and his understanding English teacher (Paul Rudd) and I wish the ending hadn’t been so rushed — I was watching with a few people who hadn’t read the book and were a little confused — but overall, I liked the movie’s message of embracing one’s teenage years, and I think they perfectly captured this with Sam, and later, Charlie, standing in the back of a pickup truck zooming through a tunnel as “Heroes” blasts from the radio.
The script merits a three out of five. Upon reading the book at 12 years old, I did not understand the line “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I remember thinking that the sentence, delivered in the hopes of being profound, was rather disappointing. Watching the adaptation now, I have more appreciation for it. I also cried at the “We are infinite” monologue at the end. I cry very easily at movies, but that still doesn’t diminish the fact that I cried. The rest of the script, in my opinion, was relatively unmemorable (except for Charlie’s amusing explanation of his relationship with Mary Elizabeth, played by Mae Whitman as a clingy, punk girlfriend), and I was even vaguely annoyed at times at certain screenwriting decisions.
The weakest parts of the movie were the cast and characters, together deserving a score of two-and-a-half. The performances of Lerrman and Miller were believable, but I can’t see Watson as anyone other than either Hermione Granger or Watson herself. Her American accent was not the best, but even if it were, I don’t think her looks suit Sam the character. It is also weird knowing that Charlie is about 14 or 15 years old and all of his friends are 17 or 18, especially when he’s romantically involved with two of them at various points. While a few years may not be a huge age difference when people are older, teenagers change and mature rapidly in the four years between the beginning and end of high school. Nevertheless, I admit that this dynamic was necessary for the feeling of loneliness Charlie experienced after Sam and Charlie graduated at the end of the film (which I liked a lot), and his older friends were able to provide him with much-needed guidance. Additionally, I liked the characters (but maybe not entirely the casting) of Charlie’s siblings, acted by Nina Dobrev and Zane Holtz; I didn’t recall any siblings at all from the book, and I thought they would make fun of Charlie for his depression and anxiety, but it was touching that they remained supportive throughout the film.
The score is composed by Michael Brook, who also composed the score for Brooklyn (2015), which I often listen to. However, I had to listen to The Perks of Being of Wallflower score again for this review because it was overshadowed by the soundtrack, which had a far greater influence on the film. I loved the soundtrack (even though Sam’s obsession with “good music taste” got on my nerves at times) and thought it perfectly encapsulated that indescribable feeling of being young. I fully support the decision to change “The Tunnel Song” from “Landslide” to “Heroes”; even though I like the former more, the latter is louder and bolder, rendering it the perfect track for that crucial scene. Overall, I’ll give the music a holistic score of four.
I interviewed Mathew Mabington, one of the members of my Movie Club, about his thoughts on the movie. He called it “a roller coaster of all sorts of emotions” that “could make you cry and then the next minute overflow with joy.” He also said that “the plot had too many different things happening and it didn’t seem they were always connected or logical.” Although he wouldn’t recommend it for those “who enjoy a more serious, cinematic experience,” Mabington concludes, “If you are looking for a fun time, […] then this is the movie for you!”
I would agree. The grade I assigned to each film element averages out to about three. This movie is not worth watching again, but I am still glad I saw it once!