Sunday 22 October 2017

Flowering of a shy 1990s teenager

Gavin Burke

the perks of being a wallflower

(15A, general release, 103 minutes)

Director: Stephen Chbosky Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Melanie Lynskey

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Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy, introspective teen prone to blackouts, is bullied at school but help comes in the shape of two wacky seniors -- trampy Sam (Emma Watson) and openly gay Patrick (Ezra Miller) -- who encourage him to be himself, that it's okay to have those crazy, dark thoughts. However, it's being himself that's the problem as those dark thoughts return . . .

Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who has adapted his script from his own novel set in his old stomping ground of Pittsburgh in the era he was of that age (1991), Perks' obvious personal touches work in its favour.

Chbosky finds it easy to tap into that terrible feeling of socially ineptness -- the dread of saying or wearing the wrong thing and having that pointed out in front of everyone -- and the three-dimensional characters are truly lived-in.

The pre-internet/iPhone '90s setting works a treat too, as it heightens not only Charlie's isolation -- there's no quick Google search for like-minded outsiders -- but also his connection to Sam and Patrick's oddities and his determination to stay in his new clique at all costs.

Chbosky might be prone to the odd Cameron Crowe movie moment, but as a whole he manages to sidestep some real teen movie clichés.

One incident, a surprise twist, cannot be further than a teen movie cliché, but its questionable inclusion changes the sweet coming-of-age tone drastically.

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