August 20, 2017


18° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us

Wallflowers bloom in coming-of-age film

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/10/2012 (1780 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Football games and awkward dances, late-night gabfests at the local diner and tentative first kisses -- they're all there over the course of a school year in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This coming-of-age drama, based on the bestselling young-adult novel of the same name, may sound like total formula, right down to the rebellious thrill of experimenting with drugs and alcohol and the liberation of experiencing The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But there's also a darkness that follows its main character, even at his happiest, which keeps the film from turning completely safe and self-satisfied.

Logan  Lerman, left, and Emma Watson star in adaptation of a popular young-adult novel.


Logan Lerman, left, and Emma Watson star in adaptation of a popular young-adult novel.

Perks features a well-chosen cast, an eclectic music mix (David Bowie, New Order, Air Supply) and some moments of uncomfortable honesty as well as dreamlike wonder. And it's anchored by strong performances on two ends of the acting spectrum: from Logan Lerman as Charlie, the first-year high school student of the film's title whose reserved nature can't hide his obvious intelligence and sweetness; and from Ezra Miller in a showy turn as Patrick, the quick-witted and gay senior-class clown who takes Charlie under his wing. (The role couldn't be more different from Miller's frightening work as the diabolical teen in We Need to Talk About Kevin.)

The young woman who completes their little triangle of blissful misfits is the perky but damaged Sam, played by Harry Potter star Emma Watson (without a trace of a British accent). Also a senior, Sam is Patrick's stepsister and Charlie's first serious crush. Maybe they invite Charlie into their inner sanctum a bit too quickly, but there's an irreverent, playful energy to their antics and a subversive sense of humour that makes you not mind so much.

Directed and written by Perks novelist Stephen Chbosky, the film follows these characters and their friends through all the rituals of a school year in suburban Pittsburgh. He features heavy use of voice-over early on, as Charlie narrates the letters he writes to a mysterious, unseen recipient, but there's also great delicacy in the characters' intimate interactions.

Charlie is more unstable and unsure of himself than the average entering freshman following the suicide of his best friend. The death messed him up, and it marked him by association. Maybe Patrick and Sam recognize his outsider status in themselves; in no time, the three are inseparable. The film takes place in a hazy sort of late-'80s, early-'90s time frame -- no one has a cellphone, and mix tapes are a crucial medium for expressing teen angst -- which adds to its feeling of universality. The melancholy Asleep by the Smiths appears so prominently, it's practically a character itself.

Charlie is very much along for the ride with these crazy older kids, including Mae Whitman as the self-described Buddhist/punk rocker who thrusts herself upon him and insists she's his girlfriend. But memories haunt him of something ugly that happened in his childhood, until he finally unravels in a third-act scene that allows Lerman to bust out, show some range and reveal he can really, truly act.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, may not do anything groundbreaking, but it tells a familiar story in small, thoughtful ways.

-- The Associated Press

Other voices

Selected excerpts from reviews of The Perks of being a Wallflower:


This is clearly a labour of love that was nurtured and sculpted from the beginning. The result is a film that feels exhilarating, fragile, funny and real.

-- Tom Long, Detroit News


Well-soaked in the familiar brine of teen sensitivity.

-- Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail


Stephen Chbosky's script is insightful about the exhilaration of soul-piercing first love, and the misery of being swept into a relationship with someone who's forceful, determined and utterly wrong for you.

-- Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune


Verbal play and smartass-ery weaves through Wallflower, but it's of the predictable variety rather than the wryly observant commentary we'd hope for, like when a bored teen drawls: "That works on so many levels."

-- Linda Barnard, Toronto Star


What makes it close to a classic is the idea that... we'll warm to the best moments of our adolescent past and revel in every romantic memory, but we'll also cling to even the ones that scarred us.

-- Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service


All of my previous selves still survive somewhere inside of me, and my previous adolescent would have loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

-- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


There is an honesty to The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a genuineness of experience that makes the movie soar when it just as easily could have stumbled.

-- Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic


It is the remarkable Logan Lerman who negotiates his journey to Charlie's self-discovery with so much dignity and vulnerability that he steals every scene and carries the picture.

-- Rex Reed, New York Observer


Both painful and elating.

-- David Edelstein, NPR


Likable, unsurprising and principally a showcase for the pretty young cast, notably Mr. Miller, who brings texture to his witty if sensitive gay quipster.

-- Manohla Dargis, New York Times


-- Compiled by Shane Minkin


Advertise With Us


Updated on Friday, October 5, 2012 at 9:32 AM CDT: adds fact box, adds photo

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Photo Store

Scroll down to load more