There are many reasons to love coming-of-age films, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower has them all: exotic experimentation, first love and, yeah, hurt feelings. Stephen Chbosky offers three more reasons to love his directorial debut (based on his novel): Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
These actors play a tribe of teenage outcasts struggling to find themselves in suburban Pittsburgh (a setting the film shares with another great example of the genre, 2009’s Adventureland). Indeed, they do so with such heart and delicacy that Perks wouldn’t have just been different without them. It would’ve sucked.
Lerman is Charlie, the shy, bookish new kid at school, who has a dark secret. After some early struggles, he’s embraced by two similarly oddball seniors: Miller’s Patrick, who masks his insecurity about his sexuality with outrageous behavior, and Watson’s Sam, who masks her insecurity about her future with faux bravery.
So all three have something to hide. But their commitment to one another shows them that hiding is the real problem. This arc is complex to portray. It requires more than facial tics and tears. Lerman, Miller and Watson display an adult level of self-awareness while playing kids. KEVIN CAPP