Devastating and fragile, Perks is such a gorgeous movie. Like a favourite sweater falling apart, you want to stay inside it forever. All of its fabric is so soft and comforting, but it’s breaking slowly and watching it unravel is hard to accept. It’s your sweater and you love it, and these are your characters and for a moment there was nothing I wanted to do less than say goodbye to them, so perfectly crafted and warm.
Written and directed by the book’s author Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower begins at the dawn of Charlie’s (Logan Lerman) high school career, already counting down the days until his graduation and feeling awkward and uncomfortable in his skin for a multitude of reasons gradually explored. He falls into a group of friends, a few years older than him but that hardly matters. You just believe all these people would be his friends, thanks largely to a magnetically charismatic performance from Ezra Miller as Patrick, last seen as the terrifying, eponymous son in We Need To Talk About Kevin and yet again he gives one of the performances of the year showcasing his diversity and magnetic screen presence. Lerman is similarly brilliant as the audience grows up through his experience, providing exactly the sort of underplayed, delicate performance Charlie requires. Emma Watson also does a stellar job as Sam, showing real chemistry alongside Lerman, even if her American accent is prone to the odd slip. This cast work together brilliantly and it’s a delight watching them giving such remarkably subtle performances of high schoolers growing up.
The magic of the film really comes together in the editing. Scenes dissolve in and out of each other, placing us inside Charlie’s head. So many moments I found myself raptured in its emotional spell. It’s interesting for a book adaptation to be written and directed by the novel’s author. Perhaps a fresh pair of eyes could have helped to bring something out on screen? On this evidence, Chbosky’s vision is irreplaceable and he puts down his ideas precisely and perfectly, from the colour palette to the inspired use of music. These are his characters and he knows exactly how he wants to present them on film and he does a wonderful job, with some beautiful visual moments which will last long in the memory. It’s a constantly engrossing drama with engaging characters that I’m really sad to leave behind, but in 100 minutes we’ve truly grown up with them. Time to get the book out the library and find them again.
Review by David Rank
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is out now in the US and out on 3rd October in the UK. Certificate 12A (UK). Running time 103 mins.
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