I’ll start with two confessions. One: I have a serious soft spot for teenage angst films. Two: I have not read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the 1999 book written by screenwriter and director Stephen Chbosky – but heard great things. So I when I attended a press screening of the film adaptation of the book at TIFF12, I was optimistic.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower had its world premiere at TIFF and was directed by Chbosky, who also adapted his book into the screenplay. The film is set in the early ’90s and is narrated by a teenage boy named Charlie (Logan Lerman) through a series of letters he writes to an anonymous person he does not really seem to know but refers to as “Dear Friend.”
As the movie starts, this anonymous friend seems to be the only one in Charlie’s life. After the suicide of his best friend, he has spent the summer being at home and speaking only with his family. He’s shy, introverted and lonely. As he starts his first year of high school, Charlie is largely invisible, hence the movie’s title. This soon changes as he bonds with Mr. Anderson, his English teacher played by Paul Rudd. But the real turning point in his social life comes when he meets a senior named Patrick (Ezra Miller) who’s a charismatic outcast. Outspoken and gutsy, he embraces his individuality. Patrick introduces Charlie to his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson) and the two take Charlie under their wing and into their fold of colourful friends.
For this movie to work, you really have to like the lead characters and the actors who portray them. You have to care about what happens to them. In this movie, you really do. The three leads are stand-outs and this movie works wonderfully.
When done badly, movies about young adults can seem like they were written by adults who think they remember what teens sound like, but they really don’t.
Perks avoids this trap. The dialogue is fresh and wonderful. So many instances bring you back to those awkward high school days. The dances. The mixed tapes. The first crush. The bullies. The special friendships that help us get through life.
The cast is brilliant. Lerman is so relatable as Charlie. Ezra Miller is funny, confident but also ultimately vulnerable too. And Emma Watson’s Sam is beautiful, carefree but fragile. Fragile because like all the rest of them, she’s living out one of the themes of this movie: that good people sometimes pick people who are unworthy of their love. Everyone, from Ezra and Emma to Charlie’s sister Candace (Nina Dobrev) experience pain from loving the wrong people.
So how does this measure up with other teenage-angst films I love: such as Say Anything, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Juno? It’s right up there! Welcome to the club, Perks, welcome to the club.
Keep an eye out for us, Sonya and Katya, as we rev up our coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival and other exciting events in the weeks to come. Follow us on Twitter too! @gossipdish and @theculturepearl as well as @urbanmomsca as we bring you everything from the film screenings to the celebrity sightings and everything in between…and stay tuned! There may be few contests too!