We can be heroes – The Perks of Being a Wallflower review

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. Directed by Stephen Chbosky. Rated M. By Jess Lomas.

“We accept the love we think we deserve,” sounds like some sage advice that would be offered in The Breakfast Club or any other John Hughes teen film for that matter. Instead, it comes from The Perks of Being a Wallflower; directed and written for the screen by Stephen Chbosky from his much-loved and bestselling novel of the same name.

Set in the early 1990s in a well-to-do suburb of Pittsburgh, 16-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman) navigates his way through his first year of high school, partially narrating his coming of age story on the back of a chain of traumatic events; the death of his aunt while he was a young boy, the suicide of his best friend the previous year, and a shocking secret that reveals itself and almost destroys him. Along the way he meets an inspiring and understanding teacher (Paul Rudd) and fellow “wallflowers” Patrick (Ezra Miller), his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson), and Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), who welcome him to their “island of misfit toys.”

Finally a movie comes along that can sit comfortably alongside the teen classics of the 1980s-1990s, tapping earnestly into the timeless issues of the teenage experience. By no means a perfectly sculpted film; rather, it is as charming and flawed as its characters. In the film, Chbosky elegantly captures the ugliness of puberty, the awkwardness of growing up, and the beauty of belonging. Key performances from Lerman, Miller, and Watson make this uber-hip high school story more palatable, with Miller impressing in particular, especially after his chilling turn in We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Critics will likely point out how the film should perhaps be called The Hipsters’ Guide to High School, or something to that effect, what with the friends regularly putting on a live stage version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show whilst listening to The Smiths. A large story arc involves Charlie and Sam’s quest to find a song they heard on the radio, David Bowie’s Heroes, and signifies Charlie’s struggle to feel the “normal” things he associates with being a teenager. What Chbosky has captured so well, first in his novel and now in the film, is that seemingly endless time and uphill battle of being a teenager. As Charlie says, “Right now we are alive and in this moment I swear we are infinite.”


The Perks of Being a Wallflower arrives in Australian cinemas November 29, 2012.

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