Film Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Written by Tom Davis

The cafeteria fight scene, the daunting first day at school, the first kiss and getting high for the first time.

The cafeteria fight scene, the daunting first day at school, the first kiss and getting high for the first time. ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ really uses all the high school clichés in the book.

Luckily Stephen Chbosky’s film based on his own bestselling novel, published in 1999, uses these clichés to its advantage to create an entertaining but poignant story in which the three central characters really steal the show.  
Exceptionally bright but lonely Charlie (Logan Lerman) is terrified of starting high school. He soon finds unlikely friends in seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) and is introduced into their group of friends ‘the misfit toys’ a title which only becomes more apparent as the film goes on.

It soon unravels that there is a lot more than just pure fear to the persona of Charlie who suffers from regular blackouts and writes to what we can only assume as an imaginary friend. These letters give nothing away but mentions of his time as “the weird kid who spent time in hospital” hinting towards possible trauma in his childhood.

Charlie’s new friends aren’t particularly trouble-free either. Patrick is gay and in a discreet relationship with high school jock, Brad (Johnny Simmons). Brad is intent on keeping their relationship discreet from his conservative father. Sam on the other hand, is an attractive young girl but doesn’t believe she deserves a decent man which is evident from her track-record and vulnerable past.

The development of the relationships between the three main characters is what really sets this film apart and beyond the generic coming-of-age drama. The group takes Charlie under their wing where he is finally able to feel part of something, joining them at the school dance and going to parties, innocently getting high off brownies before sharing some of his dark past.

However it’s not all take from Charlie who helps defend Patrick after his relationship with Brad is discovered, and helping Sam on her way to gain entrance to college.

A central theme throughout the film is the relationship between Charlie and Sam. Charlie has fallen in love with Sam but whilst sharing the odd kiss Sam believes she doesn’t deserve the love that Charlie is capable of giving her, pointed out by suave teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd).

A particularly heart-felt scene between the two was Charlie’s first kiss.  “I just want to make sure that the first person who kisses you loves you”, says Sam as she reaches over and kisses Charlie, clearly wishing her first kiss was the same.

This relationship is displayed in such nuances and subtlety that it is touching and honest whilst never becoming gaudy or repelling.

Coming-of-age dramas can quite often be brash, skimming across the surface, but Stephen Chbosky’s film delves deeper into the darkest parts of childhood whilst creating a touching story and a group of characters that are easy to emphasise with.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower had all the possibilities of becoming just another stereo-typical coming-of-age drama but with all its flaws comes a perfectly genuine and heart-warming story of a troubled teen battling against his traumatic past.