Movies: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Movies: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"


Think of the very best high school coming-of-age movies: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” “16 Candles,” “Dazed and Confused,” maybe “10 Things I Hate about You.”


Although it has its moments, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is not one of them.


Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the popular novel of the same name, “Wallflower” tries to cram every possible youthful experience into the first year in high school of a kid named Charlie (Logan Lerman, who played the kid in “3:10 to Yuma”).  First love, first acid trip, first heartbreak, you name it.


Charlie enters high school with some baggage.  He’s been hospitalized the year before, for reasons that will be explained along the way.  He’s a loner who writes confessional letters to an imaginary friend, but he’s also a reader who quickly endears himself to a sympathetic English teacher (Paul Rudd).  And before long, he meets two of the schools “misfit toys”:  Patrick (Ezra Miller, Kevin in “We Need to Talk about Kevin”) and Sam (Emma Watson, now outgrown from her “Harry Potter” roles, and with an American accent).


They’re both seniors, but they rapidly accept Charlie as a new friend, introducing him to their small circle of cool outsiders.  And this is where Charlie’s extracurricular learning process really begins.  


“Wallflower” is set in a Pittsburgh suburb in the 1980s, and one of Chbosky’s best moves is his choice of moody music from that era, including tunes by David Bowie (“Heroes” features prominently), Cracker, The Smiths and Love & Rockets.  But he stumbles when he has his high school students performing live to a showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  Aren’t they a little young for that?


Actually, they’re a little too old.  Most of “Wallflower’s” young cast are in their 20s or beyond.  The only believable student in Charlie’s English class is the girl sitting next to him who regards him with perfect adolescent loathing.


Despite his advanced age, Lerman is appealing as the sensitive wallflower and Watson handles her role well.  Mae Whitman (Amber on TV’s “Parenthood”) is also good as the pretentious intellectual who sets her sights on Charlie.  But it’s Ezra Miller who steals the show as Patrick, the wildest of the misfit toys and the most troubled.  Rudd is as sweet as ever and Joan Cusack pops up as a psychiatrist.


The cinematography is by Andrew Dunn (“Gosford Park,” “Crazy, Stupid, Love”) and while restricted to high school still offers some good scenes of a football game and the nighttime vistas of Pittsburgh.


“Wallflower” is rated PG-13 for its adult issues, drug use, language and some heavy petting.  I give it a B-Minus.


Sorry, Charlie.


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