Thursday, January 17, 2013
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012)
Painfully shy 15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman) dreads the new school year because his old friends no longer hang out with or even acknowledge him. We sense from the eggshell walking of his parents (Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh) that some trauma scarred this young man into social disability. Even his understanding English literature teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) struggles to pull budding writer Charlie out of his reticence. Enter flamboyant Patrick (Ezra Miller) and stepsister Sam (Emma Watson), two outcast seniors who seem comfortable with their station in high school society. They welcome Charlie into their inner circle, which includes aggressive Buddhist Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), and soon he’s attending parties, eating pot-laced brownies, and participating in Rocky Horror Picture Show events. But as with any close-knit group, romantic entanglements begin to cause friction. Charlie is hopelessly smitten with Sam, but she has a college age boyfriend. So when Mary Elizabeth asks Charlie to a dance, he agrees, despite his feelings for Sam, because he fears ejection from the group. Meanwhile Patrick hides his ongoing romance with closeted football jock Brad (Johnny Simmons). During this social awakening Charlie continues to struggle with recurring memories, most involving his beloved Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey), who died years earlier. Her loss, we gradually infer, may have led to this withdrawal. Or perhaps it was his best friend’s suicide last May. Stephen Chbosky adapted his own young adult novel for the screen and displays an acute sense of how teens relate to and speak with each other. However, Chbosky comes up short as director. The episodic story never coalesces completely, and the reveal of Charlie’s trauma feels abrupt and insufficiently set up. Perhaps a more objective eye would have provided more story cohesion and have sharpened significant moments. Still the film has much to recommend, particularly Miller’s vibrant performance, a significant departure from his skin-crawling turn as a young sociopath in last year’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN.