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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I probably dropped this in my Netflix queue because of Paul Rudds participation, even though hes not in it very much. Perks centers around Charlie (Logan Lerman), a freshman outcast who hated middle school and has low expectations of his impending high school experience. Initially reality conforms to his fears, but he is adopted early in the school year by a senior named Patrick (Ezra Miller), an extrovert, and his sister Sam (Emma Watson), who take him under their wings and save him from isolation. He fits easily into their orbit, and the three become fast friends, even though they are seniors and hes a freshman. Charlie falls for Sam, which of course leads to some complications later in the second act, but the film is more interested in the overall experience of discovering who you are as an emerging young adult than it is in centering on a romance. Theres a fair amount of baggage Charlies old best friend committed suicide, there are a few cases of child molestation, Patricks partner is very much in the closet and fears being discovered -- and so on. Theres an undercurrent of angst, and yet while the film explores it, it smartly avoids wallowing in it; for every dark moment were shown, theres a counterpart to it thats either uplifting or deftly funny (Charlie shovels snow in a perfect circle around where hes standing when he gets high at a party, for example). Its rare that a teen film marries these d isparate elements together so seamlessly; both are major parts of the teen experience, and yet so often films veer in one direction or the other (or remain upbeat until The Bad Event two-thirds of the way through). What makes the movie stand out is the uniformly excellent performances turned in by the leads. Lerman, whom Ive been less then impressed with pretty much everywhere else Ive seen him, displays a talent I would never have guessed at here. Hes vulnerable and accessible as Charlie, but most importantly, hes authentic; you believe in his character at once, and Charlie is easy to identify with and rally behind. Ezra Miller comes very close to stealing the show as the flamboyant Patrick; hes exactly the antidote to whats weighing Charlie down, and he lifts the movie and never lets it falter. Hes the friend every young kid wants in high school, and hes terrific here. Emma Watson, whom the whole world knows as Hermione Granger, shows that she has a lot more to offer; shes simply perfect here as an emotional midpoint between Charlies vulnerability and Patricks confidence, shifting from one state to another in a seemingly effortless performance. Charlies lack of self-esteem prevents him from declaring his interest in her, but its obvious why he falls so hard for her; Watson here captures the mystique of that girl you always loved in high school but were always far too afraid to tell about it. The movie waxes a bit emo, yes, but the performances are so strong thats a relatively minor sin, and there are some truly memorable and powerful moments that impressed me deeply (one scene where the trio are cruising through a tunnel,

reveling in the simple freedom of being away from your parents in your teen years, leaps off the screen); had I seen this movie when I was a teenager, it would have left an indelible mark. As it is I was quite taken with it; a rare teen movie that pretty much gets it right, reaching its audience regardless of age. November 3, 2013