Parkland Press

Saturday, June 6, 2020

'The Perks' of teen-age angst

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

Each decade, one and sometimes a handful of films is embraced by and-or define and seem to symbolize a generation of high school and college-age youth.

In the 1950s, of course, it was "Rebel Without A Cause" (1955).

The 1960's brings "The Graduate" (1967) to mind.

In the 1970s, there was "American Graffiti" (1973), "Saturday Night Fever" (1977), "Grease" (1978) and "Animal House" (1978).

The 1980's was especially rich: "Fast Times At Ridgemont High"(1982), "The Outsiders" (1983), "Risky Business" (1983), "Breakfast Club" (1985), "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (1986) and "Heathers" (1988).

In the 1990s, there was "Dazed and Confused" (1993), "Election" (1999) "and American Pie" (1999).

The first decade of the New Millennium included "Mean Girls (2004),"Lords of Dogtown" (2005) and "Juno" (2007).

A case could be made that "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" is the teen-age angst film for the second decade of the New Millennium.

Pittsburgh native and first-time screenwriter and director Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay and directed the film based on his 1999 novel, for which the format is a series of fictional letters.

The story is about Charlie (Logan Lerman), a suburban Pittsburgh high school freshmen who appears to be a pathological introvert. He bonds with fellow loners, high school seniors, Sam (Emily Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller).

"Perks" hits most of all the teen-film tropes: the house party when parents are gone, the high school homecoming dance in the gym, teen bullies and their victims, a favorite movie (here, "Rocky Horror Picture Show") and a soundtrack of songs with which the characters identify.

The story seems to be set in a time of portable phones when smart phones were not ubiquitous.

What raises "Perks" above the level of cliche, and that it is, are the performances by Lerman, Watson and Miller.

Logan Lerman ("3:10 to Yumna") signifies his character's emotions with self-conscious crinkled-up face, lip-biting, blinks and downcast glances. His fresh-faced performance is one to be remembered, possibly at Oscar time.

Ezra Miller ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") is a force to be reckoned with. Facially, he resembles a young Jeff Goldblum with a bit of the young Bob Dylan mixed in. His body language is gangly until it's as if he was zapped by a lightning bolt.

It's Emma Watson who most impresses in a break-out role from the blockbuster "Harry Potter" series, that is which proves her to be a thoughtful, centered and emotive presence. She has the groundedness of a younger Natalia Portman.

Also starring are Paul Rudd as one of Charlie's high school teachers, Dylan McDermott as Charlie's father, Kate Walsh as Charlie's mother and Joan Cusack as a psychiatrist.

"The Perks of Being A Wallflower" has its moments. While not a perfect film by any means that is kind of the point. What, or who, after all, is perfect?

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" is enjoyable, flaws and all.

"The Perks of Being A Wallflower," PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) on appeal for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight all involving teens; Genre: Drama, Romance; Run time: 1 hr., 43 mins. Distributed by Summit Entertainment.

Credit Readers Anonymous. "The Perks of Being A Wallflower" was filmed in and around Pittsburgh with the assistance of the Pennsylvania Film Commission.

Box Office, Oct. 26: With the East Coast bracing for Hurricane Sandy, "Argo" moved from No. 2 to No. 1, with $12.3 million, $52.3 million, three weeks, to best several new releases, "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D," "Cloud Atlas," "Fun Size" and "Chasing Mavericks."

3. "Hotel Transylvania," $9.5 million, $130.4 million, five weeks; 4. "Cloud Atlas," $9.4 million, opening; 4. "Paranormal Activity 4," $8.6 million, $42.6 million, two weeks; 5. "Taken 2," $8 million, $117.3 million, four weeks; 6. "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D," $8 million, opening; 7. "Here Comes the Boom," $5.5 million, $30.6 million, three weeks; 8. "Sinister," $5 million, $39.5 million, three weeks; 9. "Alex Cross," $5 million, $19.3 million, two weeks; 10. "Fun Size," $4 million, opening; 13. "Chasing Mavericks," $2.5 million, opening; 16. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," $1.4 million, $11.2 million, six weeks

Unreel, Nov. 2:

"Wreck-It Ralph," PG: John C. Reilly voices the title character, a video game villain who wants to be a hero at the arcade, in the animation comedy feature with the voices of Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman.

"Flight," R: Robert Zemeckis returns to live-action to direct Denzel Washington as a drug-addicted commercial airline pilot.

"The Man with the Iron Fists," R: Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu star and RZA of music's Wu-Tang Clan fame directs the action film about a hunt for gold in feudal China.

Read movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site,, and listen on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio, WDIY 88.1 FM, Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@ and on Facebook.