Robbie Davidson reviews Emma Watson’s latest acting venture
Dir: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller
Released: 3rd October
Charlie (Logan Lerman), the so-called ‘Wallflower’ in Stephen Chbosky’s adaption of his own best-selling novel, joins the ranks of the burgeoning group of thoughtful teen movie characters grappling with the struggles of growing up and finding meaning in the modern world. Indeed the obligatory reference to The Catcher in the Rye makes it clear that Charlie and his new friends are united in the fight against uniformity.
Charlie’s best friends, Sam (Emma Watson, embracing a role a million miles away from Hogwarts and Harry) and Patrick (the fantastic Ezra Miller), are burdened by different social stigmas: Sam’s promiscuous youth prompts her to reflect on why she and the people she love pick people who treat us like they’re nothing. The film is littered with these ponderous reflections which you sense would sound better in a bad song than coming from the mouths of supposedly intelligent and sophisticated young adults. At times you feel the group’s ‘indie’ credentials are hammered home too heavily, if slightly lazily: a case in point being the three friends’ frequent references to their love of The Smiths which is then undermined by their inability to recognise David Bowie’s Heroes for most of the film.
Yet despite the characters’ straddling on the good side of self-importance, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has moments of real poignancy, especially as the revelations of Charlie’s past become clear, and more importantly, genuine humuor thanks largely to Miller’s extroverted performance. Patrick’s struggles with his secret romance with the school jock is one of the most touching, if undeveloped, threads of the film’s narrative. Charlie’s relationship with his supportive English teacher (Paul Rudd) also struck a chord with me. The film benefits from a nice visual flair thanks to Chbosky’s confident direction.
Watching Watson play a character other than Hermione Granger was an unusual experience, especially with an accent she struggles with at times. Yet it’s a promising start for her post-Potter career and she fulfills the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ elements of her role admirably. She makes up what is a generally strong main cast, with the stand-out being Ezra Miller. The supporting cast is similarly good with the fellow ‘wallflowers’ providing the necessary comic relief to what is, at times, quite a serious film.
The cliches of the teen movie genre are all present (gay best friend, acid trips and canteen fights) but are dealt with more sensitively than you might expect in a film which always feels like it could slip into pretentious self-indulgence, but manages to stay grounded thanks to its likeable leads and heartfelt sentiment.