Based on Chbosky’s own novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows freshman Charlie (Lerman) as he embarks on his first year of high school. After finding the first few days a little difficult he eventually falls in with Patrick (Miller), his step-sister Sam (Watson) and their gang. Over the next year he embarks upon a series of events which help to shape his young life, all the while he is growing closer and closer to Sam but the whole time he is trying to stop his dark past from emerging and threatening his new-found relationships.
Perks is a very decent film with good performances from all three leads. Lerman is fantastic and manages to capture the tortured-soul look really well; although he seems happy in himself, the events of his past clearly still haunt him. These are slowly discovered through a combination of flashbacks and dialogue as we learn more about the circumstances around the death of Charlie’s aunt many years earlier. Miller – who was so chillingly perfect in We Need to Talk About Kevin – very much steals the show here as the flamboyant Patrick. He is wonderfully playful and impossibly cool.
Watson, unfortunatley, suffers from a sometimes dodgy American accent, but if you can look beyond that then she is very likeable. Rudd is also impressively restrained in the role Charlie’s English teacher and he helps to add some real class to proceedings, as does horror makeup maestro Savini in a small but amusing role as the school's shop teacher.
While there could certainly be some comparisons with Juno – the far-too-trendy kids, impossibly cool soundtrack and razor-sharp dialogue – the main characters here all come from emotionally damaged backgrounds. For every amusingly barbed comment there is a disturbing revelation and so it steers well clear of juno's bright and breezy tone. It is this willingness to explore the less flowery aspects of being young that really elevate this above being a standard teen drama. As we get to know the three main characters we get to see them at their best and get glimpses of them at their worst which helps to give them a real feeling of emotional depth.
Chbosky, who wrote the novel, also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. This is a brave undertaking for his first major movie, but it is a gamble that he pulls off spectacularly well. The script is decent and plot is drip-fed to the audience nicely as he manages the transition from page to screen.While it doesn’t offer anything particularly new or interesting to the teen-drama genre and the plot follows a fairly generic template, this is a thoroughly enjoyable film with enough light moments to keep the dark moments from becoming the overriding theme of the film. It paints a convincing and compelling picture of the often difficult path teenagers have to take. It’s not all hamburger phones and Belle & Sebastian, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
EXTRAS ★★★★★½ There are two audio commentaries – one with writer-director Chbosky, the other with Chbosky and cast members Lerman, Miller, Simmons, Watson, Whitman and Wilhelmi; 12 deleted scenes, with an optional commentary with Chbosky; the short making-of featurette Best Summer Ever (4:48); three collectiosn of Dailies, with an optional commentary with Chbosky; and the theatrical trailer.