It’s sad when a film you were looking forward to disappoints. This, for me, was the case with Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of being a Wallflower. Having read the book only a few months ago, I was eager to see how this clearly sensitive writer would handle the story in a new medium. I’d heard lukewarm reviews of this film, mainly extolling that the film was “quaint” but would suit its target audience (emotional teenagers) down to the ground. I should have listened, however I blithely ignored this criticism; after all I epitomise the target audience. Surely I would at least enjoy it as a guilty pleasure?
No. Within twenty minutes of the film starting I had had my fill of witty, self-aware teenagers (and that’s saying something from the girl who owns a Dawson’s Creek box set). I feel that allowing the author to become the director was a fatal mistake. The film drags with long, awkward monologues taken directly from the book. Lines that were simple, glib phrases in the book are drawn out to become the emotional highpoint of a scene, accompanied with swelling pop music. It’s difficult not to cringe a little at these overwrought emotional contrivances. I couldn’t help but feel that someone less personally attached to the material could take a more reasoned, maybe even more filmic, approach and ironically lose less of the book’s essence.
The performances are generally average, apart from the genuinely funny, engaging and sensitive portrayal of Patrick from Ezra Miller. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson seem endlessly one-dimensional, perhaps more a fault of the clunky dialogue than the actors; both seem to spend inordinate amounts of time standing around looking uncomfortable. It’s unfortunate as both characters could have done with more dialogue to make them more believable.
Most of the deeper issues and relationships present in the novel are tragically glossed over, made to seem superficial compared to the slightly incestuous love pentangle Charlie (Lerman) winds up playing a part in. Lerman seems to be very keen to emphasise just how boring and annoying this eponymous “wallflower” really is and so the film lacks a protagonist that anyone can relate to. Its a shame, I feel that this book had the potential to become a great film, a teenage classic. As it is it will probably be consigned to the bowels of not-quite-funny-or-quirky films we all try to forget.