Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Introduction: I had a double dose of "Perks of a Being a Wallflower" today, because I spent two and half hours finishing the novel before going to the movie. I really liked the combined experience because both are thoughtful and emotional. It is a seamless experience because author Chbosky is also the screenwriter and director. 

The book is outstanding, and the movie is excellent too. Like the book says, a movie is good when you feel different after you leave.

Plot:  Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a freshman in a new school. He falls in with seniors Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). Charlie and Sam find a bond because they both had traumatic childhoods. They have high school adventures with first dates, getting high, making out, getting in fights and also reading classic novels. In the end, the seniors all get ready for college, and Charlie learns not to be a wallflower.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Director Chbosky and actor Lerman have mastered how to convey nervousness at everyday high school situations, and he does it with humor.  I could not help sympathizing with him in all these  situations. 

Ezra Miller's Patrick is so fun and full of life that everyone would like to know someone like that. Miller is the best actor in the group. Watson's Sam is cute and quirky and hints at a dark side that we never quite see. 

Unlike Breakfast Club and Juno, the dialog is less the important than the events the characters experience. Director Chbosy, who also wrote the movie, throws in some philosophy into the dialog which either makes it "meaningful," or makes it "preachy," but I liked it. I think it earned the right to be preachy with all the authentic experience of being an out-sider.

In the book and the movie some aspects of the plot are left vague. It is unclear what Aunt Helen's relationship to Charlie really was, and how this related to whatever mental illness Charlie had.

Downsides are that Perks can be overly sentimental, and that it spells out its messages rather than letting people figure them out on their own. The book is especially open to this at the end, but it worked for me.

The music is split between late 80's music and a forgettable orchestral score. The photography is uninspired. 

Fun to watch. Worthwhile.

Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller

Written and directed by: Stephen Chbosy, who also wrote the novel.

Rating: 3.5 stars -- because I liked it so much. It might not get any awards, but you should see it. 

More: A key scene is driving out of Fort Pitt tunnel immediately into downtown Pittsburgh. In real life the contrast between being the tunnel and then suddenly downtown is striking, and in the movie it is more so on the back of a pickup with cool music. I wonder what another director could have done with that moment. I spectacle of the real drive does not translate to the screen. 

Even more: The book is better than the movie. On the other hand, someday I want to see the movie again, and I doubt I will re-read the book.