Bohemian fantasy shies away from adolescent truths


HERE'S one that will really make members of Generation X feel old. Adapted by writer-director Stephen Chbosky from his own semi-autobiographical novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age story set in the early 1990s, shot like a faded Polaroid and aimed at an audience of modern teens who will no doubt be fascinated by how young people made their own entertainment in those far-off days before Tumblr and Glee.

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Perks of Being a Wallflower - trailer

A sensitive teenager learns to navigate the soaring highs and perilous lows of adolescence.

Logan Lerman plays Charlie, a thoughtful loner with a dark past who can't wait until the end of high school - until he's adopted by an ''alternative'' clique led by the gay Patrick (Ezra Miller, the bad seed from We Need To Talk About Kevin).

Soon Charlie is learning about fashion, music and The Rocky Horror Picture Show from his new, slightly older friends, while falling hopelessly in love with Sam (Emma Watson), Patrick's precocious, damaged stepsister.

Reviewer rating


Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Name The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Genre Drama, Romance
Director Stephen Chbosky
Screen Writer Stephen Chbosky
Actors Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd
OFLC rating M
Year 2012
Language English

An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.

Full synopsis

Chbosky wrote the screenplay for the awful film adaptation of Rent in 2005, and here he's peddling similar fantasies of a cosy, Disneyfied bohemia. All the sympathetic characters are victims of bullying or abuse, but by forming a surrogate family they heal each others' wounds.

The script is transparently fake at almost every moment, congratulating the gang on their non-conformity while soft-pedalling any aspect of adolescent behaviour - drug use, sex, profanity - that might upset the American mainstream.

Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in <i>The Perks of Being a Wallflower.</I>
Logan Lerman and Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 

Even making allowances for a certain amount of Hollywood gloss, there's something wrong with a film about misfits where everyone is this good-looking and poised.

Though Sam is the most idealised character of all, Watson is the film's saving grace, with her hard-edged androgynous beauty and the brittle, rushed delivery of a teenage drama queen.

As an aspiring writer, Charlie has the guidance of a kindly English teacher (Paul Rudd) who lends out books such as The Catcher in the Rye, hoping his pet pupil will one day write a comparable masterpiece. Don't hold your breath.