The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 2012

Netflix | PG-13 | 1 hour 43 minutes | Retro Review

Originally published 01/05/2021

I grow weary of the term ‘coming of age,’ even if the cliché fits the movie (in a good way).  It’s easier to just call it a film about teenagers.  I also struggle with the way writers portray the high school experience.  It’s another cliché that freshman hazing is rampant and that the kids at the prom or homecoming know how to dance and they can’t wait to get out on the floor to show their movies.  Regardless, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a wonderful film and there are many parts of it that I wish were a part of the high school experience.  Perks was written and directed by the author of the original book, Stephen Chbosky.

‘Perks’ describes the various trauma that the main character, Charlie, goes through as a child and throughout his freshman year of high school.  The stress of being in a new and hostile social environment stirs up the repressed memories of childhood and threatens to bring back a previously experienced mental breakdown, which he suffered after a previous friend committed an inexplicable suicide.  But Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, becomes enveloped into a tight-knit group of semi-outcast seniors.  He gets tight with stepsiblings Patrick and Samantha (Sam), played by Ezra Miller and Emma Watson.  Naturally he falls in love with Sam, but she’s dating a college guy.  This initiates the conflict that eventually leads to another breakdown at the end of the school year as the seniors of the group prepare for the next phase of their lives and leave.  The final trigger exposes the PTSD that Charlie has been holding in so tightly, and his family and friends must help him hold the pieces together.

I can always appreciate a movie that explores mental health honestly and directly and how it affects us all during the various stages of our lives.  Add to that the sometimes-frightening experiences of adolescents dealing with acceptance in general and how it relates to homosexuality.  ‘Coming out’ or living outside the closet will likely never get easier.  Many themes are explored here.  Although at times it may feel like an after school special.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower was a fabulous ride through what high school could have been like if it had been a more interesting experience than it actually was.  So, it was a great movie but NOT CONVINCING.  Even with all the conflict and challenges that happen to this cool cast of outsiders, many of these events are what we hope high school is like, but it doesn’t resemble the real thing.

BEST moment of the movie was Ezra, as Patrick, impersonating the shop teacher.  We always know what happens during a scene like this.  The perpetrator will get busted by the victim but this time, wearing an inked-in goatee, he owns it and doesn’t back down.  It’s safe to say that Ezra Miller was also the STANDOUT who stole the show.  He had great sincerity and evoked nearly as much sympathy as the main character.  The Academy wouldn’t have looked closely at this one but I loved it.  I SCORE it a 7, which is my highest so far.

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