Movie Review: 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' -- 2.5 stars
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Directed by Stephen Chbosky
Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. A little bit of it helps us remember and find comfort in the past, but too much of it, too often, can overwhelm the present.
"The Perks of Being a Wallflower," writer-director Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his novel, is so infused with honey-glazed recollections of suburban Pittsburgh in the early '90s that it suffocates. Despite sharp performances from the leads (including Emma Watson, in her first major post-"Harry Potter" role), insightful writing and Chbosky's keen eye for the period, the film wields its emotions like a machete.
It's the sort of movie in which a character, without irony, tells a friend that he "feels infinite" as another pal stands up, stretches out her arms and closes her eyes while they joyride through the city streets in a convertible to the sounds of David Bowie's "Heroes." It swells with sentimentality to the point where you want to douse it with cold water.
Of course, for protagonist Charlie (Logan Lerman), a lonely "wallflower" high school freshman taken under the wing of outcast seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), these might truly be the best of times. An unhappy kid with parents who don't understand him and a dark past he's kept buried, Charlie longs for friends and dives in with full force when Patrick and Sam welcome him into their offbeat clique of "Rocky Horror Picture Show" aficionados.
Incorporating his novel's epistolary approach, Chbosky immerses the audience in Charlie's troubled psyche. The character's friendship with Patrick and Sam resonates in the way long-lasting, unforgettable friendships do, and the filmmaker effectively conveys the notion that freshman year changed Charlie's life forever, freeing him to finally develop a sense of self-worth.
But the movie is just too precious, too calculated. It goes after the heartstrings with such force that it's easy to resist.