PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, THE
15-year-old high schooler Charlie (Logan Lerman), is an endearing and naive outsider, coping with first love, the recent suicide of his best friend, and his own mental illness while struggling to find a group of people with whom he belongs. The bookish, introvert freshman is encouraged by his literature teacher (Paul Rudd) and taken under the wings of two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who welcome him to the real world.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's nothing predictable or formulaic about this memorable coming of age story whose high school protagonist, locked in his own world of pain and guilt, goes on a life-shifting journey from observer to participant. In adapting his novel to the screen, director Stephen Chbosky has structured a wonderfully observant screenplay that effectively allows secrets from the past to be woven into the confusion of the present with disarming clarity.
Self confidence, relationships, love and other firsts are canvassed but it is the notion to accept the love we think we deserve, instead of the one that we want, that offers the most resonance. Funny and sad, involving and moving, this quirkily named film with its mixed cocktail of characters offers more than you expect and reinforces life's truths as Charlie (sensitively portrayed by Logan Lerman), finds his way through the pain barrier to discover himself.
The story is told through the eyes of 16 year old Charlie, whose inner voice enables us to understand his emotional angst. The details of why he begins his first day of high school friendless and withdrawn are revealed slowly. There is a sense of gratitude and relief at a football game, when he is invited to sit with the extroverted Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his sassy step-sister Sam (Emma Watson) and subsequently joins their group which includes Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), a stripy-haired Buddhist cum lobbyist who decides she fancies him. But it is with Sam that Charlie shares his first kiss, in a touching and highly memorable scene.
The performances from the three leads are exceptional. Miller is striking as Patrick, whose closeted gay relationship with footballer Brad (Johnny Simmons) takes prominence as a story strand while Watson (post Harry Potter) is a revelation as the girl with a colourful past and whose zest for living is infectious.
Watch out for the scene in which Sam, hair blowing in the wind, stands in the back of a speeding car embracing the world, as her favourite music mix plays. Lerman (My One and Only, The Three Musketeers, Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief) is perfect as the vulnerable, sensitive protagonist who aspires to be a writer and is too nice to say no when Mary Elizabeth asks him out. Paul Rudd has a strong presence as Charlie's literature teacher Mr Anderson, who shares his love of books with the student he immediately recognises as having potential.
The natural evolution of the way Charlie's demons from the past are voiced is potent and moving, becoming a vital part of the emotional aspects of the story. Chbosky handles the critical themes with great sensitivity, as making choices and electing to become an active participant in the game of life come to a satisfying conclusion.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Logan Lerman made a big impression as the youngster in the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma and a bigger one in the 2009 bio-based My One and Only as George (the young George Hamilton before he went to Hollywood). Here he is again, making a great impression as the withdrawn and mentally ill, book loving and selfless Charlie, trying to cope. Lerman is a natural, his ability to draw us in, to express emotions through his eyes, face and with body language, is explicit yet subtle.
When we meet Charlie he's barely coping in the wake of his best friend's suicide. Given he doesn't make friends easily, this loss is especially hard. He also carries demons from a childhood that haunt him, and his natural introversion adds to his isolation at high school - a place where everyone seems extraverted and brave, except Charlie.
Luckily for him, Charlie is befriended by Patrick (Ezra Miller), a self confident young man, whose homosexuality remains hidden for much of the time, and Patrick's half sister Sam (Emma Watson).
Stephen Chbosky's adaptation from his semi-autobiographical best selling novel is a zinger of a screenplay, and he directs it with verve and sensitivity. Charlie's journey is beautifully conveyed and it's done without sentimentality. Nor does the character ask for our pity - only our understanding. The flashbacks gradually reveal the demons that haunt Charlie, and never more poignantly than when he finally experiences his first real love.
Emma Watson, free of her Harry Potter incarnation as Hermione, makes a sympathetic and three dimensional Sam, while Ezra Miller is a standout with a charismatic screen presence as Patrick, who puts up a confident front to hide his insecurities and demons.
Paul Rudd gives us the A grade teacher as Mr Anderson, the literature lecturer who recognises and encourages Charlie's writing talent, and a cameo by Joan Cusack as a psychiatric doctor is tangibly real. Melanie Linskey has a small but crucial role as Charlie's childhood aunt and she handles it superbly.
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PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, THE (M)
CAST: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Julia Garner, Tom Savini, Melanie Linskey, Mae Whitman, Joan Cusack
PRODUCER: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell Smith
DIRECTOR: Stephen Chbosky
SCRIPT: Stephen Chbosky (novel by Stephen Chbosky)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Dunn
EDITOR: Mary Jo Markey
MUSIC: Michael Brook
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Inbal Weinberg
RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 29, 2012
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