The Perks of Being a Wallflower promises to be that rare thing: a high school movie with weight; a coming of age story about characters you recognise.
It follows an archetypal bunch of High School Misfits ™; a group so socially hideous that they can only stand each other’s company. And it doesn’t wash for a second.
Charlie, the hero of the piece, is a super-brainy, darkly handsome kid with a troubled past. Patrick (played by We Need To Talk About Kevin’s Ezra Miller) is a gay teenager with no hangups about his sexuality and a tongue quicker than Oscar Wilde’s. Sam (Emma Watson) is the kind of soft-focus beauty that people queue outside of nightclubs to catch a glimpse of. They hang around listening to The Smiths and star in their own version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. No teenagers in the history of teenagers have ever been this achingly, nauseatingly cool – accepting them as social outcasts requires a monumental suspension of disbelief. Their love affair with Fitzgerald and vinyl records is presented with a veneer of high-school pretension, but novelist/screenplay-writer/director Stephen Chbosky loves these kids far too much to ever make them look genuinely silly.
It’s a shame – as the film progresses, the storytelling becomes increasingly adept, with some tear-jerkingly sad moments. But in the end, it’s always swimming against a sea of melodrama. It’s a vaguely engaging nostalgia-trip for anyone who grew up in the 80s but you can’t help feeling Charlie, Sam and Patrick would find this movie far below their implausibly refined tastes.
First published in City A.M.