American high school movies come in two main varieties; the casually quippy ( Superbad , Easy A ) and the earnestly drippy ( My Girl , Dead Poets Society ). The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a decent stab at the latter.
Adapted from director Stephen Chbosky’s own ’90s-set novel, Perks stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, a shy freshman whose school life improves once teen sophisticates Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) befriend him.
Charlie’s voiceover guides us through an episodic story which begins with “1,385 days till graduation” and takes in alcoholism, bulimia, depression, domestic abuse, drugs, heartbreak, homophobia, sex abuse, suicide and unrequited love along the way.
On top of these, Chbosky layers multiple references to music and movies (The Smiths, The Rocky Horror Picture Show , David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’…) These teens don’t crack wise - they’re too busy making affected pronouncements like “I feel infinite” but their emotional rawness will strike a chord with the intended audience.
And if the film doesn’t grate too harshly on adult sensibilities either, that’s down to a great performance from Lerman, who plays an introvert character with charm and vulnerability.
“There are people who forget what it’s like to be 16, when they turn 17,” says Charlie in his closing monologue.
Oldsters, consider yourself warned. For the young and young-at-heart, however, this is a film worth seeing.