Oct 312012


Many teen coming-of-age stories come are released every year – it takes a rare and special to make a lasting impression. Adapted by the novel of the same name, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is certainly something special and it has left its mark on me. Review after the jump.

We first meet Charlie (Logan Lerman) in on his first day of high school. Charlie is considerably anxious about the occasion – he isn’t exactly the popular type and he’s had a tough time in recent years. The only connection he makes on his first day is with his English teacher, Mr Anderson (Paul Rudd), who notes his passion for literature and writing, and shares his books with noticeably awkward student.

After some time Charlie finally makes friends with two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller). The two misfits see something in Charlie that he is yet to see himself – they see someone who they can trust and someone worthy of love and friendship. He is introduced into their friends and their world, and for the first time feels like he belongs somewhere. Freshman year is always hard, and for someone with Charlie’s struggles, it was going to be a tumultuous time. Sometimes to make it through okay all you need is a friend you can count on, and there is hope that these new friends will see Charlie through the potentially tough times that school and personal demons will present.

perks of being a wallflower group shot

There is something about The Perks of Being a Wallflower which spoke to me on a really personal level. Perhaps it was because the film is set in the late 90s, when I was the same age as Charlie. I recognise the struggles that teens in the film go through, and relate to the need to have someone who is really there for you. For teens, these were times of mix-tapes and experimenting, of school dances and personal challenges – this film captures this time and experience perfectly.

Far from being a cookie-cutter, sweet coming-of-age film, this film deals with some seriously dark issues in a respective and open manner; abuse, mental illness, bullying, prejudice, promiscuity and drug use appear in the film and are experienced by the characters in some way. There are also tender and awkward moments such as first kisses, unrequited love and rejection. The screenplay written by writer-director Stephen Chbosky is packed full with painfully honest exchanges between characters, and breathtakingly raw inner monologue (in the form of letters to an unknown “friend”) from our wallflower, Charlie.


Performances from the fantastic ensemble cast are excellent, with Lerman and Miller standing out. Lerman gets the balance of awkwardness, darkness and hope just right, and he will have you fully invested in Charlie from the start. Miller is simply wonderful as the exuberant Patrick, who channels much of his energy into deflecting the taunts and bullying he regularly experiences with extreme cheerfulness and witty retorts. Watson is also well cast as Sam, the seemingly flawless girl who has a colourful past to overcome.

Finally what makes this film for me is the absolute spot-on music choices and the importance that the characters place in music to express their feelings and mark the important moments in their lives. The exchanging of mix-tapes were the love letters of a generation – there is so much meaning and hope encapsulated in each and every one of them. From ‘Heroes’ by David Bowie, to ‘Pearly-dewdrops’ by Cocteau twins, the songs accompany the scenes perfectly, adding angst, joy, anger and any other emotion called for. The songs alone will ensure the film remains in my head for some time to come.

An enduring and beautiful coming-of-age story, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of the finest films on the big-screen in 2012.

By Sam McCosh


The Facts

Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writer(s): Stephen Chbosky (novel & screenplay)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Runtime: 103 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: November 29 2012; USA: October 12 2012; New Zealand: April 4 2013

  10 Responses to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”

  1. Good review Sam. It’s a beautiful film that touches on it’s subject so well and never struck a false note for me. Wish a bigger audience was going out and seeing this but who knows, On Demand could really kick-start this flick.

    • Thanks for the comment Dan. It never hit a false note for me either – these films are often so cheesy, but this one avoided that.

  2. Excellent review! I love the way you explored how this film delves into dark issues in an open and respectful way. I am really looking forward to this movie.

  3. Thanks for your comment Stephanie. The film doesn’t shy away from serious issues, but I felt it was really honest and respectful about them rather than playing on the drama too much. I hope you enjoy the film when you see it!

  4. Dying to see this, didn’t read the review as I already am mega keen but good to see 4.5 stars Sam 🙂

    • Fair enough! I had no expectations for this film so was totally blind-sided by how great it was and how emotional it made me feel.

  5. I would do anything to see this film! The book is fantastic – basically, it is the perfect thing for any teenager to read. Its honesty is so refreshing, but also very reassuring, which is something that many coming-of-age books don’t do all that well. Also, I’m glad to see that Ezra Miller was a standout for you!

    • I really hope it gets a NZ release for you Stevee! I haven’t read the book, but I can’t wait to after seeing the film. You’re right, it is emotional but also very reassuring.

  6. You managed to write what I wasn’t able to write about this film. It is just so wonderful, and although I was/ am Charlie’s age in this century, I could relate to this story perfectly too.
    Thank you for this great review!

    • Thanks so much for the comment Mette! My review was a little nostalgia-heavy, but I really loved the film. So glad you enjoyed it too!