Writing can sometimes be a thankless task. Some people will love what you write, others will hate it and the majority won’t care. But those who like to write do so for a variety of reasons; to become famous, to be liked or simply to express themselves in a way that they find difficult in ‘real life.’ Whatever the reasons for writing, there are endless possibilities that lay before you when you look at a blank piece of paper, an empty Word document or an unwritten review of a film. When I write reviews of films, I do so as a way of warning people of the potential minefields at the local cinema and to highlight the art that can be painted on the silver screen. I also do it because I enjoy it, because every once in a while a film comes out of nowhere, where I haven’t peeked at the social zeitgeist, the general consensus and I don’t know what to expect. This is where I found myself at a screening of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
When I write reviews I do so in a certain format. I setup the history of the making of the film followed by a short synopsis. I then explore the acting, the story, the cinematography, the direction and the pacing. I do so to give as informed an opinion as possible and try and bring interesting facts and the occasional put-down or piece of hyperbole. I try not to use words like ‘I’ or ‘it’s my opinion’ because it doesn’t sound professional and removes a level of authority about what I’m saying. I try to stick to this formula, occasionally I slip, usually when I’m incensed or very disappointed, but on the whole it’s easier to write with personality removed. For this time only, I will ignore these self-imposed rules and just write upon The Perks of Being a Wallflower in exactly the way it made me feel.
I could talk about the superb cast, how Emma Watson gives a performance I never thought her capable of, or how Logan Lerman dusts off the disappointment of The Three Musketeers to give an Oscar-worthy central performance or how Ezra Miller is even more charismatic and incredible than he was in We Need to Talk About Kevin. I could do some research into the history of the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower by scriptwriter and director Stephen Chbosky, a book that I have never read, but it was my lack of knowledge about the subject matter that allowed me to learn as I watched. To see the narrative unfold, to show me love, friendship, coming of age and heartbreak. All you need to know is what I know: Charlie (Lerman) is boy going into high school who has no friends and most people don’t know who he is. His life changes however when he meets Patrick (Miller) and Sam (Watson), seniors whom he becomes friends with and learns to start living life instead of watching it.
It is rare for a film to really affect me emotionally, especially one that is so obviously manipulative and features teenagers who are too smart for their own good. They listen to The Smiths while decrying the popular kids, they love The Rocky Horror Picture Show and write poetry. In film terms, these are the kind of navel-gazing people who I hate and find frustrating beyond belief. Yet here, the ease at which they interact, the dialogue at their disposal and even the music they listen to all works in harmony.
These are young people, unsure of what they’re doing or where they’re going, just trying to muddle through life creating something far greater than the sum of their parts. I was astounded how much affection I had for them all, and I assumed I knew where it was all going until the final act, which threw my off guard and left me speechless. These are the moments where the central trio give what can only be described as the best performances of the year. I won’t say anymore, but I implore you not to read anything about it and just go and watch.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower spoke to me on a deeper level than any film has for years. It has its flaws, but all films do and the perfection of everything from the cast to the script to the soundtrack help to mask any minor quibbles in direction. It’s not cool, it’s unlikely to win any awards or make billions at the box office, but in my opinion, this is the most stunning coming of age drama not only of the year, but possibly of all time.