The Perks of Being a Wallflower revisits pre-Internet adolescence
As someone who was in college when Napster happened, I'd love to see a period piece re-creating teen life during the last moments before technology began to change media consumption, communication, and the whole of social ritual. I wish The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written and directed by Stephen Chbosky from his 1999 young-adult novel, was it. Set in 1991, the film is an incidental time capsule of a pre-Internet adolescence spent discovering the Smiths via mixtapes, when suburban teens could realistically get their first taste of gender subversion via a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But period particulars seem secondary on Chbosky's list of priorities. Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy-fox fourteen-year-old with a history of depression, makes it through his freshman year by clinging to the alterna-clique spearheaded by Edie-esque Sam (Emma Watson) and her swish stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller). Charlie loves Sam, who is sorta spoken for by a boho college douche, so instead he dates her overbearing friend (Mae Whitman). Chbosky plays this CW serial stuff for maximum earnestness, stressing the teenage tendency to assume that every new thing they're feeling is unprecedented in human history, keeping the tone just-moist-eyed throughout. And then comes the plot twist, which recasts the film's plaintive portrait of Charlie's free-floating anxiety and sexual weirdness as Not His Fault. Good for him; what about the rest of us?
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.