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Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 08:45 pm

Wallflower a sincere look at teen troubles

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While everyone was falling all over themselves praising the films of John Hughes for their keen insight on the plight of teenagers, I couldn’t help but scoff at the “sincerity” found in The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and others of their ilk. I always felt that the cast, and Hughes himself, was commenting on the troubles of its teen characters rather than truly attempting to inhabit them. For me, these movies were a sham and it upset me that no one else was able to see through them.

One of the most refreshing things about Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is that it succeeds in delving into the troubles of its characters with a degree of empathy that makes it much more than just another movie about teen angst. The sympathy we feel for them is genuine and while the problems they face could have been rendered as melodramatic in other hands, Chbosky, adapting his own novel, doesn’t needlessly exaggerate the drama for effect. At the film’s center is Charlie (Logan Lerman), a withdrawn young man who enters high school while trying to deal with a tragedy that continues to haunt him. At first, feeling ostracized, he soon meets Sam and Patrick (Emma Watson and Ezra Miller), stepsiblings dealing with their own trials who take Charlie under their wing.

On the surface, this appears to be a typical setup for a film such as this, but there’s a subtlety to the way it’s told and a distinctive quality in the way the characters are brought to life that you know you’re witnessing something special. Chbosky slowly reveals just what Charlie’s wrestling with, allowing us to get to see him, as well as Sam and Patrick as fully realized characters who are far more than just the problems they’re suffering from. We see that each has hopes, fears and needs as well as other people who love them, which allows us to become more emotionally invested in them.

Credit Lerman for not overplaying the angst and giving Charlie a pensive quality that has us pulling for him from the beginning. Equally impressive is Miller, whose Patrick is as far removed from his role of the young psychotic he played in We Need to Talk About Kevin as you can imagine. The young actor has range to spare, making me eager to see what he tackles next. While these two impress, Watson literally glows on screen and proves she will have a career that will extend far past the Harry Potter films. These three as well as Chbosky’s deft touch insure that Wallflower will far outlast less sincere efforts.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org

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