The Perks of Being a Wallflower
There’s a great tragedy at the heart of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but it isn’t the crippling loneliness felt by its protagonist Charlie (Lerman), a high-school freshman so shy he makes Boo Radley look like Louie Spence. And it’s not the rejection Patrick (Miller) feels when his jock boyfriend (Simmons) locks their relationship deep within the closet, or the self-esteem issues of Patrick’s stepsister Sam (Hogwarts alumnus Watson), the pixie-haired senior whom Charlie falls for. It’s that this trio were born a few decades too early. These are Gen Y hipsters trudging through a quagmire of early 90s grunge. Maybe if they had Facebook pages they wouldn’t feel the need to pontificate their favourite Smiths B-side every few minutes. And if Charlie had access to the internet he would surely know that it’s too embarrassingly on-the-nose for the school’s depressed outcast to be caught reading Catcher in the Rye. Most pertinently, if one of them had Shazam on their iPhones they wouldn’t spend the whole movie trying to have a final reel epiphany to a song they hear on the radio in an early scene that’s so well known that isolated tribespeople in Indonesia can be heard whistling its chorus.
The blame for this risible faux-characterisation lies firmly at the feet of writer/director Stephen Chbosky (adapting his own semiautobiographical bestseller) who mistakes a quixotic record collection for personality. Despite being walking clichés these wallflowers do blossom, however, thanks to fine performances. Miller is fun and flamboyant as Charlie’s gay, proud and very loud best bud (we need to talk about him playing Tim Curry’s role in a Rocky Horror remake), while former uptight wizard Watson brings an easy naturalism to her thankless dream girl role. Leman, meanwhile, is a revelation. The Percy Jackson actor is so winning he makes laboured scenes involving space brownies, LSD and snow angels feel fresh. Youth is wasted on the young and this talented young cast are wasted on Chbosky’s phoney melodrama.