Monday, November 04, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky that is based on his own novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of a troubled high school freshman who befriends two seniors who are outsiders as they help him deal with his growing pains. The film is a coming-of-age film set in high school where a young man tries to deal with death and all sorts of things as he finds new friends in the most unlikely people. Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Joan Cusack, Nina Dobrev, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Melanie Lynskey, and Paul Rudd. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a majestic yet mesmerizing film from Stephen Chbosky.

The film explores a year in the life of a young high school freshman who arrives as this very introverted and fragile kid still reeling from the suicide of his best friend. Unable to fit in and feeling left out, he finds himself befriending two seniors who don’t play by the rules or fit in with anyone as they take him to be part of their group. Throughout the course of the film, Charlie Kelmeckis (Logan Lerman) writes letters to an imaginary friend about his year as a freshman where he also endures some repressed memories as well as trying to figure out the world of high school as he befriends Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) who are step-siblings that prefer the beat of their own drum. For Charlie, he finds a place where he can belong and not worry about fitting in though he realizes that Sam and Patrick are just as messed up as he is.

The film’s screenplay by Stephen Chbosky, that features some contributions from a draft written by the late John Hughes, takes it time to explore the year in the life of Charlie Kelmeckis as his first day as a high school freshman is a terrible one. He is treated with indifference by his older sister Candace (Nina Dobrev) at school while the only person who seems to take notice of Charlie in school is his English professor Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) who is impressed with Charlie’s knowledge of literature as he gives him copies of classic books for him to read. Upon meeting Sam and Patrick, Charlie realizes that he isn’t alone though there’s still a lot to learn about life as Patrick is gay who is secretly in a relationship with a popular football player named Brad (Johnny Simmons).

Sam meanwhile, is in a relationship with a college student named Craig (Reece Thompson) where Charlie falls for her though he finds himself in a relationship with her friend Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman). When things become complicated in its second half where Charlie finds himself not happy in his relationship with Mary Elizabeth. He also starts to deal with some memories about his late aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey) whom he adored as he also has blackouts where he wouldn’t remember what he did. Even as he would do something that would bring all of his friends back together despite the fact that he’s a freshman and they’re seniors that are about to leave for college. That sense of reality does come ahead in the third act for Charlie but also something more that plays into his role as a young man coming of age as he tries to comprehend his role in the world and what has been troubling him all these years.

Chbosky’s direction is quite simple in its framing and such as he sets the film in early 1990s Pittsburgh where Sam and Patrick listen to college rock and retro music including the Smiths that Charlie loves. Pittsburgh is a character in the film where it plays to that sense of adventure where it’s a city that is very exciting but it’s also near places in the suburbs where it was OK for kids to come home and feel safe. Chbosky’s direction also creates a sense of realism of the way high school was like in the early 1990s where there are a group of cliques from the jocks, the popular kids, and such that all sit in their own table and all play into their ideas of cool with the exception of Sam, Patrick, and their small group of friends. Especially as Chbosky also plays that sense of awkwardness in Charlie as he is mocked by a classmate for having a Trapper Keeper while always looking uncool though Mr. Anderson thinks there’s more to Charlie.

The direction also has Chbosky showcase what these outsiders would do where Charlie does get his first experience with the use of drugs though it is played for laughs. Yet, it also helps move the story forward in the way Chbosky would set up these dramatic moments where Charlie has no idea what he’s doing where he would reveal things that Sam nor Patrick needed to know which plays into the repressed memories he’s having. All of which play into a dramatic third act that reveals not just the source of repression but also into why he had been so introverted early in the film and why it’s start to come back to him. The overall result is Chbosky creating a truly engaging and tender coming-of-age film about a young teenager’s first year as a high school freshman where he finds friendship in other outsiders.

Cinematographer Andrew Dunn does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography where it is mostly straightforward in its daytime interior and exterior scenes while using some lights for the scenes at night including some shots at the Fort Pitt Tunnel which is a crucial moment in the film. Editor Mary Jo Markey does terrific work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while it does delve into some style for the flashbacks as well as the scenes of Charlie blacking out. Production designer Inbal Weinberg, with set decorator Merissa Lombardo and art director Gregory A. Weimerskirch, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of Charlie‘s home as well as the home of the other characters as well as the hangouts as it maintains that sense of early 90s look.

Costume designer David C. Robinson does wonderful work with the costumes where some of it stylish to play into the personalities of Sam and Patrick as well as the costumes they wear for the Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings. Visual effects supervisors Christian Cardona and Rocco Passionino do nice work with some of the film‘s minimal visual effects such as Charlie‘s first marijuana-induced haze as well as a chilling scene in the film‘s third act. Sound editors Perry Robertson and Scott Sanders do superb work with the sound such as the school dances and the atmosphere at the school halls. The film’s music by Michael Brook is fantastic as it features some low-key guitar-based music to play into Charlie‘s emotions while music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas creates a fun soundtrack that features music like Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Cocteau Twins, Galaxie 500, the Smiths, New Order, Cracker, and other 80s/90s alternative rock as well as David Bowie’s Heroes which is a prominent piece of the film’s soundtrack.

The casting by Mary Vernieu and Venus Kanani is brilliant for the ensemble that is created as it features some notable small roles from Nicholas Braun as Candace’s boyfriend Ponytail Derek, Zane Holtz as Charlie and Candace’s older brother Chris, Tom Savini as the shop class teacher Mr. Callahan, Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh as Charlie’s parents, and Joan Cusack in a small yet terrific performance as a doctor who tries to find the source of Charlie’s blackouts. Adam Hagenbuch and Erin Wilhelmi are excellent in their respective roles as the stoner Bob and the Goth girl Alice who are part of the small group of friends Sam and Patrick hang out with. Reece Thompson is pretty good in a small role as Sam’s college boyfriend Craig while Jonny Simmons is superb as the popular jock Brad who is secretly Patrick’s lover.

Mae Whitman is fantastic as the very outspoken Buddhist Mary Elizabeth who falls for Charlie as she overwhelms him with everything. Paul Rudd is amazing as Mr. Anderson as the one teacher Charlie likes as he realizes Charlie’s passion for books as he encourages him to become a writer. Melanie Lynskey is wonderful as Charlie’s late aunt Helen as this very troubled woman who only appears in flashbacks as she is someone that Charlie adored. Nina Dobrev is amazing as Charlie’s older sister Candace who ignores him at school while dealing with her own issues that includes something where she tries to make Charlie keep something secretive.

The film’s best performances are the trio of Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, and Logan Lerman as they give astounding performances in their roles. As the very flamboyant Patrick, Miller brings a lot of enthusiasm to his character as well as lot of charm that plays into the fact that he’s also a bit of a mess when he has trouble dealing with reality. In the role of Sam, Watson has this energy to her role as she has this alluring presence that makes her very interesting as well as someone who is also quite fragile. Lerman is phenomenal as Charlie as this troubled, introverted young boy just trying to figure himself out where Lerman brings a lot of weight to the role in not just his physicality and reactions but also in the way he conveys a boy growing up as it’s definitely a real breakthrough for the young actor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an extraordinarily rich film from Stephen Chbosky that features remarkable performances from Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. The film isn’t just a touching yet poignant coming-of-age tale that is engaging but also showcasing a world where there is a place for those that feel like they don’t belong anywhere. In the end, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a sensational film from Stephen Chbosky.

© thevoid99 2013


Ryan McNeil said...

I think I'm overdue to revisit this film, considering it was one of my favorites from last year. It left me very nostalgic for the age when we discover so much new music - the age where even a song that's twenty years old can completely change your world.

Thanks for the reminder sir. I sorta remember being kinda proud of my review for this film if you feel like digging back on my site a bit.

thevoid99 said...

Yeah, that was one the reasons why I love that film. It had some reminders of my own high school life where I was discovering music that was very different the top 40 music at the time. One of the good things that I enjoyed about high school.