Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Do we really need another High School Angst film? Do we really need another coming of age film? These are the questions whirling through my head as I slid the DVD into the player last night. Well, I needn’t have worried. This is a first-rate film.

In one of those coincidences that seem to keep happening if you watch a lot of films, one of the three stars here was Ezra Miller, who we had watched just the night before in a film I truly hated, We Need to Talk About Kevin. Not Ezra’s fault, in fact his performance was superbly creepy. And he’s totally different in this, as a gay boy who is sort of the class clown, but is really a lot deeper than that.

It’s hard to review this and give you a sense of just how good it is. The story is not outrageously unusual, and hardly worth relating. Logan Lerman (who I had never heard of) is a shy boy just starting his freshman year. No friends. There’s something dark in his past, which we know we will eventually learn, and when we do, it was worth waiting for. He soon makes friends, just like I did: A small clique of people who weren’t jocks or cheerleaders or anyone likely to dominate the yearbook. One is Ezra, and one is his sister, Emma Watson. (Who has an impeccable American accent, and how do Brits do that so well?) Emma has left Hermione far behind now, and good for her. She proves here that she can act very well in non-Potter pictures.

Maybe the best way to say how good this is is to point out what it doesn’t have. There are no gross-out scenes. Other than a few generic bullies who hardly matter, there are no horrible people. The parents of all these kids are nice people, and there’s no deep friction with their kids. The one teacher we see is a terrific teacher. It all works extremely well, including the ending. If that sounds dull, it’s not. There is deep pain beneath the surface, and a horrible revelation. But they deal with it. Life goes on.

Two other things we don’t see here: Computers and cell phones. I realized soon that this was not a contemporary film. It’s shot in Pittsburgh, and we don’t see a lot of cars, and I was having a hard time dating it. If I knew more about pop music I probably could have. Wiki says it’s the early ‘90s, and that looks about right. And the more you watch, the more you realize just what a defining thing cell phones and computers are. Like airplanes and cars, they have changed everything. The lives of high schoolers today revolve around cells and computers. It’s nice to remember that there was a life before them. I wonder how kids today react to a film like this, though. They say it’s getting a cult following, but what generation?

Bottom line: Unless you hate movies about young people, like a small number of people I know, you should see this. It’s great.