PG-13 (mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight -- all involving teens); 102 min.
Football games and awkward dances, late-night gabfests at the local diner and tentative first kisses -- they're all there over the course of a school year in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
This coming-of-age drama, based on the bestselling young adult novel of the same name, may sound like total formula, right down to the rebellious thrill of experimenting with drugs and alcohol and the liberation of experiencing The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But there's also a darkness that follows its main character, even at his happiest, which keeps the film from turning completely safe and self-satisfied.
Perks is anchored by strong performances on two ends of the acting spectrum: from Logan Lerman as Charlie, the first-year high school student of the film's title whose reserved nature can't hide his obvious intelligence and sweetness, and from Ezra Miller in a showy turn as Patrick, the quick-witted and gay senior-class clown who takes Charlie under his wing. The young woman who completes their little triangle of blissful misfits is the perky but damaged Sam, played by Harry Potter star Emma Watson (without a trace of a British accent). Also a senior, Sam is Patrick's stepsister and Charlie's first serious crush. Maybe they invite Charlie into their inner sanctum a bit too quickly, but there's an irreverent, playful energy to their antics and a subversive sense of humor that makes you not mind so much.
Directed and written by Perks novelist Stephen Chbosky, the film follows these characters and their friends through all the rituals of a school year in suburban Pittsburgh. The Perks of Being a Wallflower may not do anything groundbreaking, but it tells a familiar story in small, thoughtful ways.
Exclusive: Rave Ridgmar, Fort Worth; AMC Grapevine Mills; Angelika Dallas
-- Christy Lemire, The Associated Press