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saints and sinners of the stage and screen

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (12A)
Cineworld, Shaftesbury Avenue
1st October 2012


When The Perks of Being a Wallflower begins, it initially feels like yet another one of 'those' films about being an unpopular kid at school, struggling to fit in, but with a sudden change in fortune and an uplifting ending. Perhaps with a makeover or two. However, it soon becomes clear that the plot here is far more sophisticated and bleaker than that. Yes, there is the obligatory dose of teenage angst as befits a coming-of-age story, but there are also deeper, darker themes such as mental illness and abuse interwoven throughout the entire film.

Perhaps unusually, Stephen Chbosky has written the novel this film is based on, adapted the screenplay himself and also directed it. With such a degree of control over the story, the clear vision evident makes sense, with gorgeous cinematography and music complementing the plot, rather than taking over it as can often happen when a novel goes to Hollywood.

Logan Lerman plays protagonist Charlie, who is 'that' kid. Isolated and slightly odd, high school is a veritable ordeal for him until he is befriended by older step-siblings Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). Watson proves she can do more than play Hermione Granger, taking on a more complex and extrovert role, as an edgy young woman with countless bed notches, earned both willingly and less so. Lerman and Miller hold their own well, bringing out a certain vulnerability in both their characters, with Charlie the more openly fragile one.

As Charlie's mental health destabilises, current scenes are interspersed with flashbacks, set in similar locations and situations, with those memories so short that sometimes you aren't quite sure if you actually saw them on screen or not. Chunks of events are neatly snipped out, giving the audience the same unsettled feeling as Charlie, who is trying desperately to follow what is actually happening to him.

There are a whole host of excellent cameos, including special effects legend Tom Savini, Paul Rudd and Melanie Lynskey, who played dippy stalker-next-door Rose in Two And A Half Men. As Charlie's late aunt, she takes on a more disturbed and serious role and does well with it.

Set in the early 1990s, there are some wonderfully grainy shots with plenty of recognisable music, creating some very nostalgic moments. In particular, there is a fantastic scene with Emma Watson standing up in a moving truck against a backdrop of David Bowie's Heroes, which must become the film's iconic moment. As the camera moves around her, Sam feels anything is possible and rather than be a real cheese-fest, this is actually quite an emotional scene.

Beautifully moving, the only criticism comes from the sheer number of subplots it tries to pack in. Many of these are not developed, presumably due to the time constraints (not all books can be cut into two epics like The Deathly Hallows), but all seem worthy of more attention.

In one scene, when complimented, Charlie expresses surprise that anyone has noticed him. It would be a travesty if cinemagoers look past this film and do not notice The Perks of Being a Wallflower, because it is utterly compelling and unexpectedly brilliant.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower was released in the UK on 3rd October 2012.

Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly, Bakerloo)

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