The Perks of Being a Wallflower – review

A shy freshman is adopted by two colourful older students in Stephen Chbosky's tame adaptation of his own novel, writes Philip French

Adapted by director Chbosky from his own bestselling novel for young adults, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a rather cluttered rite-of-passage novel set in a well-heeled suburb of Pittsburgh in the 1990s. The central character, part-time narrator and eponymous shrinking violet is Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy, intelligent 16-year-old from a conventional middle-class family, who enrols as a freshman at a local high school. A sympathetic English teacher (Paul Rudd in an underdeveloped role) immediately identifies him as a boy of talent largely because he's heard of Charles Dickens. An ostentatiously colourful pair of seniors, the gay Patrick (Ezra Miller, the eponymous Kevin of We Need to Talk About Kevin) and his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson, exchange student from Hogwarts) draw him into their eccentric circle, and for some odd reason he becomes the centre of attention.

An academic year passes with the usual amount of institutionalised homophobia, promenades, drug-taking, romantic tiffs and misunderstandings, shibboleths involving musical preferences, and discussions about who'll get into which college. All the while there is hanging over Charlie guilty memories of a suicide and of being sexually abused, which are rather hurriedly dealt with by a smiling shrink in a white coat at the local hospital (Joan Cusack). It's all rather obvious and familiar, but well enough acted.


Philip French

The GuardianTramp

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