Starting high school is traumatic enough without a tragic loss, a mental breakdown, and other baggage in your recent past. But this is what accompanies Charlie (Logan Lerman) on his first day as a freshman in 1990s Pittsburgh.

Ill-equipped to handle this trauma, Charlie's old friends, and even his older sister, barely acknowledge his presence, and so Charlie is relegated to the worst of all high school hells: sitting alone at lunch. Only 1,384 more days of high school to go, he writes to an obscure stranger—a plot device that peppers the film.

Logan Lerman as Charlie

Logan Lerman as Charlie

At a school football game soon after, Charlie makes nice with Patrick (Ezra Miller), the lone senior in his freshman shop class. Exuberant, witty, and openly gay, Patrick soon takes Charlie under his wing and into his orbit of misfits, who are all suffering from their own dramas and shady pasts. Charlie helps them with academics, and they involve him in their indie music fanzine, Rocky Horror live drama shows, and, most importantly, their tight-knit, quirky community. Together they all enjoy the gift of being unfazed by one another's brokenness.

Within that group, Charlie falls hard and fast for Sam (Emma Watson), Patrick's half-sister, a senior who is still trying to live down the sexual reputation she gained during her freshman year, a past she now regrets. While she dates someone else, she and Charlie become close friends, and he yearns for her with all the exquisite pain of a first love.

Ezra Miller as Patrick

Ezra Miller as Patrick

The rest of the group is chock full of drama. Perhaps too much drama. There's the shoplifter, the gay guy dating the closeted football player, and the angry, feminist Buddhist. There's sexual abuse, depression, homophobia, and psychotic blackouts. All within this community of six high schoolers.

Charlie also has a kindly English teacher who takes special interest in him as a writer and as a person; an older brother who was a football legend at the school; an older sister who's dating an idiot; and parents who don't quite understand. All sounds kind of familiar, no?

This slice of high school is brought to us by Stephen Chbosky, the film's director, screenwriter, and author of the bestselling 1999 novel on which it's based. Though his rendition of teenage angst is somewhat familiar, it's also endearingly earnest and keenly insightful—a cut above much of the vapid teen drama gracing screens both big and small in recent years. In its best moments, Wallflower wrestles with grief and guilt and shows how utterly essential a strong community is to weathering these huge issues.

Charlie falls hard for Sam (Emma Watson)

Charlie falls hard for Sam (Emma Watson)

Another strength of Wallflower is the excellent "teen" cast. Lerman is appropriately muffled as the depressed and grieving Charlie. Watson proves she can be quite winsome even without her wizarding wand. But the real star of the show is Miller as larger-than-life Patrick, the ringleader of this band of misfits. His exuberance is delightfully entertaining—even as he deals with drama after drama after drama.

When I was a teen, our angst films were 16 Candles and The Breakfast Club, and when I think about it, these films had more than their fair share of familiar stereotypes and drama-plagued characters. I think films in this genre show us a teenage experience we alternately felt like we were having or felt like everyone but us was having. And perhaps that's the point of teen films—to capture the dramas, both within and without, both real and imagined, and to help us feel less alone at that lunch table filled with misfits or with just us and a book. And in that respect, Wallflowers certainly delivers.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. What do you think has drawn this group of friends together? What do they receive from each other? Why do they let Charlie, the lone freshman, into their group?
  2. How do people grieve and/or heal throughout the film? What helps them in those respective journeys?
  3. Patrick tells Sam to stop making herself small. What does he mean by that? In what ways might she be doing that?
  4. Another character says that we accept the love we think we deserve. Do you agree or disagree with that idea?
  5. How does this portrayal of high school compare to your own?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight—all involving teens. We see several teen characters get drunk and/or high at a party. We watch Charlie go from first kiss to feeling up one of the female characters to some intense making out throughout the course of the film. These young characters deal with some tough stuff—one was sexually abused by a relative as a child, another by her mom's boyfriend. Patrick's closeted boyfriend gets beaten up by his dad when he catches them together. We see them make out in one scene. And we see a few fist fights and some bullying. In the midst of all this, there's no nudity and very little language. Mostly this would all make great fodder for discussions about these tough issues many young people face.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
Average Rating
(14 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight—all involving teens)
Directed By
Stephen Chbosky
Run Time
1 hour 43 minutes
Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Theatre Release
October 12, 2012 by Lionsgate
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