“We are infinite.” — Charlie (Logan Lerman) in The Perks of Being A Wallflower (2012)
So, here’s the thing. In general, I try not to judge people. I have friends (and family) of all races, religion, and political ideologies. I may not always agree with you but I will always respect your right to disagree. With that being said, if you don’t love the 2012 film The Perks of Being a Wallflower, then I’m worried about you.
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is based on a novel that I read and loved right before I entered high school. In fact, I loved the novel so much that I had my doubts about whether or not the film could do it justice. Of course, if I had been paying attention, I would have noticed that the film was directed by the same man who wrote the book, Stephen Chbosky. Everything that made Wallflower such a powerful book — the honesty, the understanding of teen angst, the underlying sadness — is perfectly captured in the film.
Wallflower tells the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a painfully shy and emotionally sensitive high school freshman. Charlie starts the school year under the weight of two tragedies — the suicide of his best friend and the death of his aunt. Because he’s so shy, Charlie struggles to fit in and make friends, though he does find a mentor of sorts in his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd, playing the type of teacher that we all wish we could have had in high school).
Charlie, however, does not find a mentor in shop class, which is taught by Mr. Callahan (Tom Freaking Savini!). However, he does meet Patrick (Ezra Miller), a witty and cynical senior who, because he’s openly gay, is as much of an outcast as Charlie. Patrick introduces Charlie to Sam (Emma Watson). Charlie assumes that Sam and Patrick are dating (especially after he sees them dancing together) but later he learns that they are actually stepsiblings and that Patrick is secretly seeing a closeted jock named Brad (Johnny Simmons). That works out well for Charlie because he has a crush on the free-spirited Sam.
The rest of the film follows Charlie as he survives his first year in school and Patrick and Sam as they complete their final year. It’s a long but exciting year in which Charlie discovers everything from drugs to the mysteries of sex to the pleasures of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Even more importantly, it’s a year that forces Charlie to confront his own unresolved emotional issues.
Sensitively acted by the three leads and featuring a great soundtrack, The Perks of Being A Wallflower is one of the best films about growing up that I’ve ever seen. For me, there is no scene that best captures everything that’s great about being young than the scene where Sam, upon hearing David Bowie’s Heroes on the radio, demands to be driving through a tunnel. It’s a great scene from a great movie that celebrates both just how scary and amazing it is to have your entire life ahead of you and the special friendships that help us survive.