April 23, 2013

MOVIES: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012)

This movie disappeared fairly quickly when it was released last fall, but it was highly praised by a lot of critics in their year-end lists. It's directed by Stephen Chbosky, whose screenplay is adapted from his novel, which has been wildly popular with teens in recent years.

It's another version of a fantasy that is strangely common among authors who were misfits as teenagers -- the gang of misfits who come together, discover that they have everything in common, and learn that they're not such misfits after all. I call it a "fantasy" because, wish-fulfillment novels to the contrary, such things almost never actually happen. (I blame the whole damn thing on the stop-motion Rudolph Christmas special, and this movie even has an explicit reference to the Island of Misfit Toys.)

Our central misfit this time is Charlie (Logan Lerman), who hopes to make just one friend on his first day of high school. It takes a few days longer than that, but he does eventually fall in with a small crowd of fellow misfits, headed up by two seniors, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson, sporting a most erratic American accent).

You could probably write most of the script yourself from there. Charlie falls for Sam; Patrick falls for Charlie; and by the time the year's over, Charlie's found the strength to confront his Dark Secret.

What, you thought you were going to get away from this without a Dark Secret? Oh, heavens, no. And when this one arrives, it comes almost entirely out of the blue in the last half-hour of the movie, and it's a really cheap bit of exploitation.

But as hopelessly predictable and unrealistic as the story is, the acting is extremely strong. The three principals are terrific, and I would imagine that this movie is going to lead to roles in bigger movies for all three. (Watson, of course, has plenty of big movie experience already.) The supporting adult actors aren't given much to do, and have been filled with a cast who are really overqualified for what are glorified cameos -- Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack.

If you are less annoyed by the cliche nerd fantasy plot than I was, you might enjoy this movie a lot; even if it does drive you nuts, you might still get enough pleasure from the acting to make it worth seeing.

No comments: