Based on the bestselling novel by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming of age story set rather nebulously sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Logan Lerman plays Charlie, starting high school with no friends and hoping just to survive. It’s revealed early on that he spent some time in some sort of hospital the year before, but we don’t know why. We’re pretty sure it wasn’tfor a broken leg. He’s pretty set on making a friend and manages to pick out perhaps the one kid in the entire school who wouldn’t shun his clumsy attempts at conversation. Patrick (Ezra Miller) is gay, and hangs out with a whole group of outcasts. They accept Charlie into their group and for a time he’s happy. But his past is still lurking under the surface as he navigates a crush on the adorable Sam (Emma Watson).
This really is a young adult film. Most adults will see the formula as pat and cliched and Charlie’s path to social acceptance far too easy. It also needs a firmer grounding as a period piece – it’s hard to tell when it’s set but it’s clearly not in the present. The issues faced by the entire outcast group are ones more openly discussed now – it needs to be clearer to the audience that things were different in the time period in which the movie is set.
All of the performances are good – Ezra Miller as Patrick is the standout, full of bravado but very vulnerable outside of his cloistered group of friends. Dylan McDermott is his usual weasely self as Charlie’s dad, Kate Walsh and Nina Dobrev are serviceable as his mother and sister. Dobrev’s sub-plot is interesting but handled too quickly and easily. Overall, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is best left to its intended audience – teenagers. Adults will have seen it before, and done with more panache. 2 ½ stars out of 5 – add a star if you’re under 17.