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By Daniel Lammin
9th April 2013

When I posted my review of Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being A Wallflower’ last year, it prompted an unexpected debate - not only at SWITCH, but with friends and colleagues. Many agreed with my sentiment that it was one of, if not the best film of 2012, using words like "shattering" and "important". On the other side, however, some passionately disagreed, sighting the beauty of the original novel and how the film doesn’t even come close to matching it, often falling very short of it. You can check out my theatrical review here, along with the fascinating comments posted in response. Six months later, I was intrigued as to whether I would have the same visceral reaction I had on my first viewing, especially after reading the now-classic book on which it was based.

Nothing has changed. ‘Perks’ is still the touching, devastating and inspiring film I remembered. What is even more obvious now, however, is the care and economy in the filmmaking, especially after wading through the crippling pretension of Oscar season. There is a lot to be said for a filmmaker that knows when to get out of the way, and Chbosky clearly has this as a priority. ‘Perks’ is about its characters, especially Charlie (Logan Lerman), the troubled but passionate teen trying to find his place in the hierarchy of high school and emerging adulthood while his brain threatens to topple inside his head. There is no call for clever, showy filmmaking here, and the rule of simplicity permeates everything in the craft of the film. ‘Perks’ is constructed on a direct line from beginning to end, a central thrust that keeps the film moving forward. Chbosky’s direction is clear and confident, but not spectacular. His screenplay is tight and tender, but not an attempt at grand poetics. The film balances the tragedy, the mundane, and tremendous humour, which can get lost from one's memory of the film, especially with the devastating and powerful final act.


What really holds the film together, however, are its performances. Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, as step-siblings Patrick and Sam, are a formidable pairing, proving their tremendous talent without breaking a sweat. They are the book-ends holding the film up, both as characters and as actors, giving Charlie the support he needs, while delivering significant emotional punch. The film belongs to Logan Lerman, though, and even on second viewing, his performance as Charlie is still revelatory and breathtaking. In much the same way as we see Charlie riding the shift from childhood to manhood, Lerman does so as well, especially in the final act, where his honesty and daring make his performance almost too real to watch.

It would be foolish to say that ‘The Perks of Being A Wallflower’ is a perfect film. It isn’t. But it also makes no attempt to be perfect. It has a story to tell and a lesson to impart, and rather than blowing you away with cinematic tricks, it lets nothing get in the way of its intentions. It also complements the novel beautifully, and perhaps they need each other far more than most book-to-film adaptations have in the past. Each offers a different language, a different approach, and each is as valid as the other. They can work perfectly well separately, but just as well together. Little miracles like this film come along very rarely, and when they do, they sparkle all the more. ‘Perks’ is an important film, a perspective on the trials of growing up that most other films haven’t the balls to tackle. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you gasp and it leaves you breathless. And it is still my pick for the best film released in 2012.

'Perks' is still my pick for the best film released in 2012.

Visually, ‘Perks’ is all about nostalgia - the grainy, washed-out memory of high school as shown through old photographs from before the digital age. It never says it is set in the past, but the palette and visual style is enough to tell us this. Rather than scrubbing it up to something shiny and pristine, Roadshow has wisely let the film retain this quality, and its 1080p 1.85:1 transfer is an absolute stunner for it. The autumnal tones just make the film more relatable and tangible. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track also accurately recreates the intentions of the film. Music is a big part of ‘Perks’, and is woven carefully though the fabric of the film. The track balances all the elements beautifully, so none is overwhelmed by the other. An excellent presentation across the board.

There are only a few extras on offer for ‘Perks’, but what we have is generally excellent. There are two audio commentaries, one from Chbosky, the other from the director and the cast. Mostly anecdotal, they give a sense of how the adaptation came about, and the relationship between the creatives and the cast. There are also a number of deleted and extended scenes, many providing extra context to Charlie’s illness, with commentary as an option. The only featurette is ‘Best Summer Ever’, where the cast talk about the experience of making the film. It’s a surprisingly fluffy piece that doesn’t delve too deep, even ruining some of the magic of the film. Then again, ‘Perks’ is perhaps a film left relatively unexplained by behind-the-scenes material, and in that case, this is an excellent and appropriate package.

RELEASE DATE: 10/04/2013
RUN TIME: 01h 43m
CAST: Logan Lerman
Emma Watson
Ezra Miller
Mae Whitman
Kate Walsh
Dylan McDermott
Melanie Lynskey
Nina Dobrev
Johnny Simmons
Joan Cusack
DIRECTOR: Stephen Chbosky
PRODUCERS: John Malkovich
Lianne Halfon
Russell Smith
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