The Perks Of Being A Wallflower
Director: Stephen Chbosky.
Cast: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Paul Rudd.
GROWING up can be tough. High school can be hell. Fitting in and making friends isn't easy.
If these ideas speak to you or remind you of a certain time in your own life, this sweet coming-of-age tale is for you.
If not, you can at least sit back and enjoy the cool soundtrack that backs the journey of self-discovery taken by three intriguing teens.
Set sometime in the early '90s and taking place over the course of an American school year, it follows Charlie (Lerman), a friendless freshman who is painfully shy, partly due to a hinted-at mental breakdown in his past.
Desperate for some kind of social interaction, he befriends outgoing senior Patrick (Miller) and Patrick's step-sister Sam (Watson), who welcome him into their misfit world of mixtapes, teen romances, drug experimentation and Rocky Horror Picture Show re-enactments.
But beneath the good times there are secrets, dark pasts, and mental problems, as well as grappling with sexuality, crushes, violence, identity and isolation.
All these facets could be drab cliches in lesser hands but Chbosky, directing from his own adaptation of his own novel, keeps the pace lively and the mood predominantly light.
With his trio of Lerman, Watson and Miller, he's got three likeable young stars who capably handle the extremes of their roles, particularly the comparitively lower profile Miller. That they work so well together is part of the appeal of the film, helping to give The Perks Of Being A Wallflower a welcoming vibe, as if you're hanging out with some fellow misfits.
Of course, no coming-of-age story would be complete without a great soundtrack, and here we get David Bowie, The Smiths, XTC, Dexy's Midnight Runners, L7 and more providing a musical thread that adds to the narrative.
It's a shame the film slightly fumbles its big reveal and that certain elements aren't fully unexplored, but it's a minor quibble.
Some will be put off by the prospect of another "growing up is hard!" teen tale, but The Perks Of Being A Wallflower overcomes this preconception by giving its characters a good mix of light and dark, balancing its issues with fun times, and refraining from preaching or smacking of an after-school special.