Ezra Miller, who plays the gay character, steals his scenes.
by Gregg Shapiro
If you can put the anachronisms and fashion issues aside, writer/director/novelist Stephen Chbosky’s film adaptation of his own book The Perks of Being a Wallflower is worth watching for the performances by scene-stealer Ezra Miller (who is openly queer in real life) and a nuanced Emma Watson. Because they are both so good, it’s possible to overlook the movie’s time-challenged flaws.
Wallflower and high school freshman Charlie (Logan Lerman) is recovering from a bad spell in the early 1990s. His late Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey), with whom he shared a dark and inappropriately intimate secret, haunts him years after her death. There’s also a friend he mentions who killed himself. But wait, there’s more. Charlie is about to enter the hallowed and hellish halls of a new school.
Preferring to blend into the scenery, Charlie is taken under the wing of English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd), who offers literary guidance. Then, surprising even himself, Charlie makes friends with queer senior Patrick (Miller) and in turn Patrick’s stepsister Sam (Watson). Suddenly, the kid who preferred solitude, reading, and writing finds himself in a series of social situations that he never could have predicted.
With increased social acceptance comes greater responsibility. Some things he masters, such as keeping secrets (including when he walks in on Patrick kissing one of the stars of the football team). But he struggles with other social graces, including how to break up with a girl (he has the bad judgment to do it during a game of Truth or Dare). In case you didn’t see it coming from a mile away, Charlie also falls in love with lovable stepsister Sam—who’s only interested in older guys and treats Charlie with kid gloves, which only increases Charlie’s feelings for her.
As Charlie blossoms, his past and the present converge. He finds himself unable to cope. His newfound social status isn’t what he thought it would be, and everything, including his friendships, begins to look bleak for him. There are (borderline New Age) lessons to be learned about accepting “the love we think we deserve”; however, the real lesson has more to do with the power and value of friendships. Not a perfect movie, but one that nevertheless has enough “perks” to make it worthwhile.
Blu-ray special features include digital and ultraviolet copies, audio commentary by Chbosky, Miller, Lerman, and Watson, deleted scenes, and more.
From Summit Entertainment (summit-ent.com).
Gregg Shapiro is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.