Teen angst flicks are mostly pity parties with cliche characters and few surprises.
There really isn't much you can do with one that hasn't already been done in 10 others. The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows the formula. What makes it unique is characters that are multi-dimensional and dilemmas that have a sense of reality about them.
And the film is superbly written. That's most unusual, indeed.
Director Stephen Chbosky's screenplay is based on his novel. Logan Lerman is Charlie. He's an introspective, introverted high school freshman. Charlie's voice reading an excerpt from his diary opens the movie. He's writing to a woman.
Charlie becomes friends with a gay high school senior and with the young man's stepsister and their friends. Like most teen angst films, The Perks of Being a Wallflower explores adolescence and all the usuals -- school, popularity in school, adolescent love, parents and parenting. It's the stuff you normally see in teen films. That's where the similarities end.
Using intelligent discussion and exceptional dialogue, Chbosky's story explores those themes because that's how life is for high school kids. Where Perks separates from the pack is in the development of characters that seem real. Chbosky's look at the superficial is superior, and when he addresses themes of childhood trauma and death, The Perks of Being a Wallflower takes the genre into the stratosphere.
Also of note are the performances. This is Harry Potter series star Emma Watson's breakout adult role, and she's up for the challenge. Also turning in exceptional performances are Lerman and Ezra Miller, who shined in the dark drama, We Need to Talk about Kevin.
The bottom line is there are many perks to The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 1/2 stars
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Stars: Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It's playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.