There were so many films from 2012 I felt guilty of missing out on seeing in the theater. As time passes, I still don’t get why The Perks of Being a Wallflower didn’t come out everywhere. Never has a coming-of-age/ comedy-drama made me feel deep inside about a fictional character in the most realistic way possible. Though this isn’t about the band The Wallflowers about how they made their hit “One Headlight,” I guarantee nothing’s better than this.
What’s the Story: Charlie Kelmeckis (Logan Lerman) is someone who can be described as a loner when he begins his first year as a freshman in high school in Pittsburgh. A shy teenager who’s clinically depressed, he dreams of becoming a writer someday and writes letters to an unnamed friend. He soon becomes fast friends with two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller), as they decide to take Charlie under their wing that will help him break him out of his introverted shell that won’t have him fall back on his depression from a traumatic experience.
For someone who was a sophomore in high school when this was released, I was mostly all about films set in that location and wonder if it could have any connection with me. And it took me a few months to finally see what most had on their best lists of the year, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower would’ve even been one to tell my peers I like to seek it out because I fall for this adaptation every time I watch it.
Stephen Chbosky directed it based on his own 1999 novel of the same name, and we don’t often see the writer of the book get behind the camera to make the film they want to make. He even wrote the script himself and wouldn’t want to sell the rights unless he’d also adapted it himself since was almost personal to him when writing the book. I’ve never read the book that would’ve kept my interest at lunch (especially the second semester), but this would be one of most likely to read in my free time at school and get a feel for a modern Catcher and the Rye interweaved with the grounded approach of a John Hughes classic.
Only Chbosky is good enough to know these characters well enough to follow them the entire time, and anyone can watch this to see for themselves. I was just a freshman a decade ago, and looking back six years after graduating, I wouldn’t call myself too much of a wallflower, but I always considered myself a shy student with friends to talk to. The thing to appreciate about his direction is that it doesn’t ever feel like you’re watching a film and look at real teenagers rather than actors portraying them going through life in the purest way imaginable. And the dialogue sounds so natural since it’s his own words, with conversations never sounding fake.
Everybody here is exceptional with no complaints from me, and it’s easy why you’re rooting for the main three characters. Logan Lerman as Charlie had me nervous since he didn’t impress me that much as Percy Jackson, but thankfully, he strikes as the lead and I personally saw myself in him, especially. He needed to make the character of Charlie believable to understand where he’s coming from, and you got behind him every step of the way where you want him to have the goal of fitting in.
Emma Watson as Sam gives my favorite performance from her since Harry Potter ended since not only did she pull off an American accent, but we learn how she has this reputation that still hinges on her that’s hard to believe. That’s not enough to look down on Sam when Charlie cares enough to know what she deserves. Yet out of the trio, Ezra Miller was amazing as Patrick. There’s something about his energetic performance that carries through where I wouldn’t mind befriending him, basically stealing every scene. Both he and Watson balance each other out.
Aside from them, the rest of the casting also deserves some attention. Paul Rudd as Charlie’s English teacher, Mr. Anderson, doesn’t have a bunch of scenes, but it’s this connection with Charlie in seeing the potential he has as a writer that makes you think back to that favorite teacher of yours. Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth was the standout in the group of friends and she smarts some good laughs. And the rest from Nina Dobrev, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh were good as well as Charlie’s family.
Almost a decade after it came out, why is a film like The Perks of Being a Wallflower still able to stay true to itself? Because not only is it charming, but it emotionally gets to you. It’s a relatable story to understand, and anybody who has been a loner in either high school, middle school, or even college knows what it feels like. Chbosky doesn’t shy away from including those comedic and serious moments in a tale of adolescent youth. You’re watching this teenager get through his first test of high school, counting the days till the very last and fearing what he has gone through, it’s just nice to know upper-class students are willing to make him feel welcome to their so-called “Island of Misfit Toys.” Just as Patrick said, “You see things and you understand. You’re a wallflower.”
There’s always a quiet one who never stands out, but it wouldn’t hurt to get to know them that could lead to better things in life. Honestly, some parts made me tear up, especially this sweet moment between Charlie and Sam at a white elephant exchange gathering that got to me now than my first viewing. Simply put, beautiful. Everybody in the world goes through the highs and lows of school and the things we want never come to reality. That said, it’s about being confident and making sure you don’t leave yourself out of the important things moving forward.
The soundtrack also gets points for having a playlist of songs I enjoy listening to. I kept forgetting this takes place in the early ‘90s, so it’s fair to have these popular tracks that would make for an awesome mixtape. From L7’s Pretend We’re Dead” to my favorite David Bowie song “Heroes,” it fits so well. The music part of me would question why they didn’t know who Bowie is or at least the song, but I tend to let that go quickly. Though mixtapes were way past my time, I find it hard to come up with a collection of songs to showcase my love to someone.
If I were to tank the best coming-of-age films of the past ten years, this or Eighth Grade is easily at the top because we should always remember this in talking. Even if I didn’t have the same experience, that doesn’t mean it isn’t watchable. It’s authenticity at its finest. How was this not nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar nomination? And there’s no better closing line than this, “And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.”
Final Thoughts: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an emotional coming-of-age dramedy dealing carefully with important issues that have been going around in schools today. Just great from start to finish with an exceptional cast, a killer soundtrack, and Chbosky’s touch to cap it off. No film from 2012 is more underrated than this.