The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 25, 2015
Dealing with the problems of approaching adulthood in high school, friendship, love and a whole bunch of themes more could make for a horribly dry or self-important film. This one has its pretentious moments that make you wonder if there ever were three friends with such a glamorous gang doing such "crazy" things. But overall it works, thanks to a script that is taking its characters and their problems seriously without forgetting the humor. It also helps that the young actors are excellent, even Lerman who was mostly really dull in other films. There are moments of genuine truth, catching the hopes, fears and opportunity of adolescence rather perfectly, and a pretty surprising twist towards the end, that thankfully doesn't ruin the film's ultimately optimistic attitude. Viewed at the right age this could be a long-time companion, much like the friends in the movie. Well done.
Super Reviewer
½ March 28, 2014
A beautifully sad yet brilliant masterpiece.
I might have preferred a little more depth to my characters rather than simply scratching the surface. But wonderfully powerful with a great young cast. Emma Watson excelled in this role!
Super Reviewer
October 20, 2012
Loved the cast in this movie. Loved the music in this movie. Loved the feel of this movie. Let's face it!! I just LOVED this movie!! ;)
Super Reviewer
½ August 18, 2013
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a terrific and highly entertaining drama film with a great cast. I've seen plenty of dramas in the past year or so, but this is by far one of the most engaging and well crafted films in the genre that I have seen. If you want something with a great storyline, then give this movie a shot. Emma Watson is surprisingly good here and she proves that she can act in a totally different way than the Harry Potter films. In other words, she definitely breaks the mold, and won't be just another type casted actress. This is an effective drama with a wonderful cast where each actor brings something unique to the screen. I was pleasantly surprised by the film, and I didn't expect much from the film. However the plot was thoroughly engaging and entertaining and it was truly something to treasure. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the best films that I have seen in recent memory and if you enjoy well constructed dramas, this is the film for you. This film surprised me, and it is a far better film than what you might initially think. With a great cast, effective directing and a well written story, this is a must see for film fans that want something truly memorable to watch. This is a near flawless film that is sure to appeal to viewers looking for a well structured film. The cast here keep you interested from start to finish and the direction is wonderful as well. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a delightful surprise and one that is entertaining from start to finish.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ July 15, 2013
In my review of Westworld two years ago, I spoke about the perils of novelists turning their hand to filmmaking. I argued that since "novelists are so attentive to verbal content... they neglect the visual characteristics of great cinema." Cinema is both a visual and a narrative medium, and the best offerings in any given genre are a delicate balance of the two.

As it was with Michael Crichton, so The Perks of Being a Wallflower marks Stephen Chbosky's first crack at a feature film, adapting his own epistolary novel from 1999. His task is a little easier than Crichton's, in that the film is rooted in one genre rather than handling a story that combines elements of three or four. The end result is flawed and overly familiar, but it is one of the better examples of an author directing.

I spoke in my review of Beverly Hills Cop about how Hollywood is increasingly stuck in the 1980s, in terms of their filmmaking approaches and the kinds of stories they choose to tell. For all the bile and vitriol directed at Michael Bay (nearly all of which he deserves), we are still essentially living in the aftermath of Simpson and Bruckheimer. Current executives who grew up with The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles want to relive those supposedly halcyon days, and it's only a matter of time before the remake engine turns in their direction.

Considering that Perks is a lower-budget, more independently-spirited production, you'd like to think that it wouldn't suffer from any similar problems. But it is guilty of having its cake and eating it, in that it takes a fairly familiar, John Hughes-esque story about high school life and presents it as a zeitgeist moment for people coming of age in the early-2010s. Not every coming-of-age story needs a contemporary setting to have value, but it still feels disingenuous, if not outright dishonest.

Comparing Chbosky to Hughes is no mere lip service. The focus on outcasts (the wallflowers of the title) echoes the set-up of The Breakfast Club, in which a group of very different, very difficult people are brought together by fate and learn to live with each other. And like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, we're given a protagonist from whom we are slightly detached: albeit for different reasons, we never really want to be like them, only to observe what they do from a safe distance.

There's nothing wrong in principle with taking familiar genre tropes and using them to tell a slightly different story. But it becomes a problem when the filmmakers' relationship to said tropes is a little uncertain. The Breakfast Club and Heathers both work because they have a clear idea about their relationship to Hughes' conventions: one applauds and embraces them, the other rips them to shreds. Perks can't entirely decide which side it's on, alternating between earnest and arch in a way that can often be distracting.

At its heart, Perks is about the rollercoaster of teenager relationships, told through the eyes of someone who is separate from the familiar concerns due to youth and inexperience (or at least, that's what we're led to think). You could certainly argue that its uneven tone is supposed to reflect its impulsive protagonists, none of whom are meant to show the emotional control or stability that they will come to possess as adults. But even if we accept this, there is an overall tonal problem which relates to how clever or profound Chbosky believes he is being.
Because it can't ever decide how genuine it wants to be, we never entirely get a handle on Chbosky's protagonists or why their outsider nature is being celebrated in this fashion. In Heathers Winona Ryder's outsider status was clearly defined, and her loneliness became a springboard to explore deeper ideas of temptation, lust and independence that ultimately shaped her identity. Even though Heathers is intentionally heightened and exaggerated, being an extremely dark comedy, its characters often feel more rounded and believable than the characters in Perks.

Your ability to enjoy Perks relies on one simple decision, which relates to all the pop culture references and behaviours that are invoked of it. Either you will embrace the whole experience on an emotional level, believing in the mood and mind-set of the characters regardless of how conscious the period touches are. Or you will be prevented from doing this because these touches are so conscious they seem clunky, and will therefore find the film insufferable. It is possible to entertain both opinions throughout the running time, but ultimately one must trump the other.

One of the key sticking points in the film is the music. In addition to all the discussions about mix-tapes, which tread very close to High Fidelity, there are several big set-pieces whose choice of music makes or breaks the moment. We have Sam and Patrick's eccentric dancing to 'Come On Eileen' by Dexy's Midnight Runners, the discussions about 'Asleep' by The Smiths, and the now-famous tunnel sequence involving 'Heroes' by David Bowie. In each case the music is so much of its period that the choice seems smugly obvious, but on a purely emotional level, it works.

The other sticking point is how the film deals with the darker side of teenage life. While the novel drew controversy for its seemingly racy content, the film on the whole is very gentle. Even with the numerous parties that are depicted, there's no Animal House levels of depravity to deal with, or any real consequences of the drugs that are occasionally ingested. This is all fine, but it has the effect of making the final revelations surrounding Charlie feel completely out of place and tacked on. These later scenes about mental illness and child abuse require a very steady hand, and Chbosky doesn't entirely earn the right to cover them in this way.

If you can get beyond either of these things, or at least overlook them in favour of the characters' emotional state, then Perks still has much to offer that is enjoyable or fun. It's not laugh-out-loud stuff, but it's positioned more as a drama than an out-and-out comedy, and therefore that's to be expected. The only really hilarious moments involve the cast dressing up and acting out The Rocky Horror Show, which is played for the same campy laughs as the play and film that spawned them.

The film does have a number of good performances, which help to offset the arch feelings present in Chbosky's script. Logan Lerman does a very solid job as Charlie, particularly during the brownie scene where he dials things right down and prevents the character from quickly becoming obnoxious. Ezra Miller isn't quite as magnetic here as he is in We Need To Talk About Kevin, but he's still a compelling screen presence and he brings a lot of sly confidence to Patrick.

Emma Watson rounds out the main cast impressively as the free-spirited Sam, coming into her own in those tender moments where she and Charlie are just a little vulnerable towards each other. Elsewhere there is good support from Tom Savini as Patrick's shop teacher, and particularly from Paul Rudd as Mr. Anderson.

Perks is also technically accomplished, something that can't always be said for author-driven films. The film is shot by Andrew Dunn, best known for his work on The Madness of King George; he brings a lot of crisp colours to the proceedings, and the snowy scenes are particularly well done. Chbosky's compositions and shot choices aren't particularly ground-breaking, but his editing is slick and polished. For all the debates the musical choices may produce, the film does utilise its score very well in moving the action forward, and the film as a whole is very efficient.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an enjoyable addition to the coming-of-age canon, even if it doesn't do much to justify its glowing reputation. While many of its creative choices are either overly familiar or frustratingly smug, it makes up for this through the emotional attachment we have for the main performers. Its appeal is far from infinite, but it's still a nice way to pass the time.
Super Reviewer
July 11, 2013
It starts out feeling rather mundane as far as the genre goes (Teen, coming of age) but picks up quickly as Miller and Watson's characters are introduced, their chemistry and quirks are infinitely more appealing than "Wallflower" Lerman.

What I found most impressive was that the plot/story although rather uninspired, feels so incredibly sincere and authentic in it's themes. The drama is surprisingly vivid, all largely in part to Chbosky's direction, and a well written script (courtesy of the book, I assume?)

If there's a coming of age tale worth recommending about passion, loss, miss-opportunities and hope, this is it.
Super Reviewer
½ July 2, 2013
Partly bad casting, and it didn't turn out to be the movie that I was looking forward to. Less perk and more of a jerk for me. Just writing.
Super Reviewer
½ May 16, 2013
A well-written, nostalgic feeling look on high school through the eyes of a freshman (Logan Lerman) battling depression after his best friend commits suicide, and how he finds a new group of friends that show him their problems too, including an attractive girl (Emma Watson) who seems to only date jerks. While definitely cliched in aspects, this movie has an aura of positivity about it despite all the internal sadness that ultimately makes it a winner. Sure, you could probably call some things coming, but the performances all-around, from Lerman, to the phenomenal Watson, as well as Ezra Miller as a gay student, all do a great job capturing the highs and lows of that stage in life. The revealing twist near its conclusion is shocking but extremely well-handled. A solid movie that should make the three leads stars for the future.
Super Reviewer
½ March 4, 2013
Okay, okay... I'll give this movie its props. The emo factor initial turned me off, but the chord of the final chapter so perfectly summed the emo theme that I hit the credits with a satisfied buzz. Sometimes, an satisfying ending is all a movie really needs.
Super Reviewer
March 29, 2013
If you can manage watching the first hour of the film without contemplating your own teen suicide, then you must have read the book. I read the book and I was still bored to tears. Last 15 minutes of the film are worthwhile, if you're not in a stupor when you get to that point.
Super Reviewer
½ January 12, 2013
Certainly one of the finest films to have ever addressed the trials and tribulations of being a teenager, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is a film that paints a very authentic portrait of it's characters and their individual angst. What could have been been a cliche ridden after school special is instead a film that hits all the right notes in it's uncommonly thoughtful and compassionate approach. Fine work from Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and especially Ezra Miller in an instant classic of it's genre.
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2013
A precocious but unpopular high school freshman finds friendship (and love) in a group of misfit seniors. This coming of age drama has a very John Hughes-y feel, right down to the 80s soundtrack, but with dark undercurrents; should please bright teens and nostalgic adults.
Super Reviewer
March 4, 2013
There're so many rich, fascinating character details, it's a shame the to-screen adaptation wasn't a TV series order.
Super Reviewer
March 16, 2011
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a beautiful yet tragic story of a boy named Charlie who is haunted by his past. The movie didn't feel like another 'teen flick'. It didn't even feel like a movie. I felt much like I felt after reading the book, like I just experienced something. The movie really did the book justice. I enjoyed it just as much and the actors did an amazing job in their roles.
It's a story of a troubled young man who has had awful things happen to him and to people he cares about and not having the emotional ability to deal with any of it. Sooner or later it all becomes too much for him, which leads him to finally remember what he's been blocking out for so long. It's really a sad, dark, but touching story. It really takes a strong person to live with the struggles of the way he is feeling. It's not easy to feel trapped in those emotions and try to live a normal everyday life. Especially when you're as lonely as Charlie is. It's a great character study film and book that should be seen and read."
Super Reviewer
½ June 5, 2012
A heartfelt, but also at times heart-wrenching, coming of age tale with imminently likable leads who take material that isn't the most original in the world and makes it feel alive and refreshing. You will surely find one of the characters identifiable to yourself when you were in high school and the film does a great job of giving every character a chance to develop while not taking away from the others. The reason I liked it so much is because Charlie was basically me in high school, minus some of his mental issues (although I had mental issues of my own in high school and could instantly identify with his problems). The performances are just fantastic to go along with everything else. Logan Lerman plays Charlie and even though he is the most reserved, I thought his performance was the most impressive. He usually plays much more uptempo characters and I wasn't his biggest fan up to this point, but he nails it. Emma Watson does not at all remind you of Hermione, which is good because that role will forever define her. It looks like she'll be able to move on just fine. Ezra Miller is an up and coming actor and based on his performance here, I'm interested in seeing him more. The rest of the cast is filled with veteran performers like Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh, but most of them have very limited screen time and only Paul Rudd really leaves an impression. The movie was directed by the author of the novel, which is really cool in my opinion. I haven't read the book, but I've read that he doesn't slavishly adapt the material which is quite an accomplishment. He clearly knew what needed to be in the film and what didn't. My only real complaints are minor, but I think that much like every other movie based on high school, they do not realistically portray high school. There's some bullying obviously, but not this much and not this severe. Some of the other small subplots don't get their due as well, like the one with Charlie's sister and her abusive boyfriend. Otherwise, this is a fantastic film and one of my new favorites. It touched me deeply and I just loved every character.
Super Reviewer
½ November 15, 2012
Super Reviewer
December 13, 2012
A bit of an emotional nostalgia trip about the difficulties of growing up as a teenager. Well acted, well scripted and solid all around.
Super Reviewer
February 2, 2013
WHAT A GREAT MOVIE! With tears still in my eyes, I am able to admit - I am a wallflower! No movie has ever related so well with my teenage years. GREAT acting by ALL!
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2013
Slow moving, but really good. Great soundtrack too. Very different role for Emma Watson. I was impressed!
Super Reviewer
½ January 12, 2013
Though with an unnecessary twist and a few clichés in a plot that could have certainly avoided them, this is a very sincere and involving drama about what it is like to be a teenager trying to find his place in the world - and its strength lies in three excellent performances.
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