There are a few genres of film that are very formulaic – action films, romantic films – and unfortunately, teen-oriented films. They all have the exact same protaganist – an old soul teenager thrust into a world of popular people, to which he or she vehemently fails to be a part of before finding fellow quirky individuals who share a similar disdain of teenage life. It is an inoffensive, but bland formula, and doesn’t do the sometimes excellent talent involved any justice. I won’t deny that The Perks of Being a Wallpaper is not much different – it has a very similar pattern that it shares with similar films. Then how is it that a film so similar to others can actually be so different and unique in its own ways?
First of all, the cast is excellent. Logan Lerman proves his talents not as a child actor anymore, but as a mature and talented individual. Playing the lead role and titular wallflower, he is quiet, shy and intimidated by the world around him – and while that may seem insincere in other characters in similar films, the story and Lerman bring out a very humane and real aspect to the character of Charlie that lies in all of us who have never been popular or in the mainstream cliques, especially as teenagers in high school. It is a very nuanced and natural performance, and Lerman brings a fresh, exciting aspect to the same misunderstood teenage character so popular in these types of films.
Joining Lerman are two young actors who are both bright and shining talents – one a relative newcomer at the time of the film, the other a part of film history. Ezra Miller, who stole the show in We Need to Talk About Kevin, plays Patrick, the flamboyant and good-natured friend of Charlie. It is a star-making turn, and Miller is much more than a caricature, and serves less as comedic relief (despite having some of the funniest moments in the film) and more as an example of being confident, even when you don’t quite fit in. Emma Watson may only be 24, but she is certainly an iconic actress, and that’s purely because of her decade-spanning performance as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films. After being in a franchise for so long, it is difficult to shake the image that you are that particular character for your entire career. As good as his film choices are, Daniel Radcliffe does have trouble getting rid of the idea that he is, first and foremost, Harry Potter. Yet, that hasn’t happened with Watson, especially not in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. She blends into the character so well, and disappears completely into the role of Sam, the quirky and all-knowing female lead and close friend (and crush) of Charlie. All three leads of this film are wonderful, and it reaffirms my belief that they will not fall to the same fate of other child actors, fading into obscurity or bland low-intelligence entertainment, but rather remain talented and brilliant performers.
The film also feels very dreamy and surreal, both in the way it looks and the way it makes one feel – you can almost feel the washed-out, calm fun of the teenage years, along with the frantic insanity of the pressures one feels at that age. The colors – always subdued and slightly off – add to the idea that we don’t live in a black-and-white world, but we also don’t live in a world of bright colors and instant excitement – it is our responsibility to take the bland world we are given and give color to it through our own experiences and excitements. The Perks of Being a Wallflower isn’t an exciting movie because of the way it was made, but because of the way it makes us feel. Unlike so many other films such as this, it never sinks to levels to try and please everyone. Many people have experienced what the characters in this film experience, and thus the film is an honest and revealing portrayal of what we go through in those vicious teen years. Everything is relative, and to those who can’t relate to this film, they will still enjoy it very much. But to those who can relate to it, it is a special and heartfelt portrayal of what we experience all the time. It is a heartbreaking story that also reaffirms life and passion and finding the truth to be yourself within your own experiences.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower made me very nostalgic for my high school years, and it is a fun and often hilariously bitter look at at the stupidity that is the teenage years of high school and parties. It is a strangely mature film for its genre, and well it can come across as cliched and insincere at times, it is still a very entertaining, touching film that remains one of the best of the genre, and sits nicely with the classic Brat Pack teen films of the 1980s, as opposed to the mediocre films of this type made recently.