Being Near Emma Watson

That is one of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Reconciling the public’s fascination with Emma Watson’s blossoming sexuality with realizing the first time she was on-screen she was 11 years old is really difficult. Doing so in a movie where her character’s sexuality is fundamentally warped because of an experience at 11 years old feels like a pretty clear indictment of said fascination. So if we could take a second from obsessing over the emerging womanhood of someone who grew of age in the spotlight as we do with every starlet, maybe we’d notice that Watson’s performance is the sole reason The Perks of Being a Wallflower works more than it doesn’t.

Based on writer/director Stephen Chbosky’s massively popular coming-of-age novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is either brilliant in its accurate portrayal of high-school life in the 1990s or cliched to the point that it feels like freshman-level creative writing, depending on your perspective. Logan Lerman plays Charlie, a psychologically damaged freshman prone to a nebulous and undefined condition wherein he blacks out, sees things and sometimes gets suicidal or violent based on an array of psychologically damaging experiences. Friendless, he is embraced by a step-sibling pair of semi-social pariah seniors: Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Watson).

Patrick is punished for being a flamboyant and fearless gay teen, while Sam is somewhat shunned for having morphed adolescent sexual abuse into a freshman year “tramp” problem. Out of compassion, the duo brings Charlie into their inner circle of outcasts, which includes Buddhist punk rocker Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) and proto-Goth Alice (Erin Wilhelmi). As dating is wont to do, romance quickly produces fissures in this gang of buds, all the while each of the three main protagonists deal with supremely disturbing levels of psychological trauma.

The first half of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is trite and rather stupid. Films like Super 8 get blasted for trafficking in nostalgia, while coming-of-age stories peddle it wholesale, none worse than the first act of this high-school drama. Indeed, things look nigh-irredeemable until Watson, Lerman and Miller bring their exceptional talents to bear on the never-original material. Lerman, who was once rumored for Spider-man and would have been a better choice than Andrew Garfield, resists the urge to overact and mostly nails a shy leading role. Miller sizzles as the type of brazen and inspiringly self-accepting gay teenage character that is simply not fictionalized enough.

And then there’s Watson. Boy howdy is she something. Even fighting through a sometimes badly concealed accent, she demonstrates her ability to be a non-derivative object of desire while fleshing out a three-dimensional character based on the type of girl we all remember. She is luminous and nuanced, sincere and show-stopping in a performance sure to be overlooked because of her age and the generic J.D. Salinger delusions of the author.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the sort of film that will destroy angsty teenagers and new twentysomethings who can still taste their introduction to adulthood. For the rest of us, there’s only a vague sense of appreciation. While this will be the best film of the year for certain folks, for the rest of us, it’s just decent nostalgia fueled by a great performance.

Grade = B-

 

posted at 06:10 am
on Saturday, October 20th, 2012

COMMENTS

(We're testing Disqus commenting (finally!); please let us know if you have trouble.)

comments powered by Disqus

 

« Previous Page


Worst. Children’s Book. Ever.

The horror genre is not my least favorite genre solely because white people keep making period costume dramas. At their worst, horror flicks revel in sadism and do so shoddily, with weak acting,...

more »


Happy, Little Clouded

Actual human beings made The Tale of Princess Kaguya, and you can tell. A water-colored rebuke of the robots who computer-generate most modern animation, every luscious scene is hand-crafted and...

more »


No Big Bang

In 1965, Stephen Hawking wrote his first ground-breaking thesis and wed Jane Wilde. His paper argued that if a star can collapse inwards to form a singularity, then a singularity can explode back...

more »


Leni Riefen-stalling

On the one hand, any film subtitled “Part 1” is a naked cash grab. On the other hand, shut up and take my money, Hunger Games. Mockingjay Part 1, like the rest of the franchise, is billed as “Young...

more »


Oopsie Genius

I know two things for sure: (1) Birdman aims to relentlessly drive home one singular point, one thoroughly expressed thesis about life and art. (2) It does not succeed. You would think that would...

more »







Advanced Search