A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Perks of Being a Wallflower (based on the same-named book by Stephen Chbosky) is an edgy, moving, and layered coming-of-age dramedy that's frank about the troubles and exploits of teenagers. You see them fret over their futures, push back against parental intervention, drink, make out, and use drugs. One girl also blithely jokes about being bulimic. Expect to see couples (both same- and opposite-sex) making out, teens bullying each other, and plenty of swearing. There's also a big reveal about a major, tragic trauma. Harry Potter's Emma Watson co-stars, but this is a much more mature role for her than Hermione.
What's the story?
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is starting high school, a momentous and fairly joyous occasion ... if not for the fact that his best friend killed himself months before, and Charlie himself is recovering from a breakdown of sorts. It's a scary situation, until he befriends Patrick (Ezra Miller), a charismatic, openly gay senior whose biggest heartache is that his closeted boyfriend refuses to acknowledge their relationship in public. Patrick's step-sister, Sam (Emma Watson), a sweet girl saddled with an unfair reputation, takes to Charlie, too -- and vice versa. Together they navigate the treacherous waters of high school with some success, until Charlie is forced to face his past again.
Is it any good?
Watch out for Logan Lerman. If his work in THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is any indication, he's that rare young actor who can carry the weight of complex emotions without reducing them to tics that are too often the actorly shorthand for teenage alienation. As Charlie, Lerman is fantastic and sympathetic -- key for a film of this make. We believe his diffidence, we understand his fear. The same can be said (to a slightly lesser extent) for both Watson, who's passionate and forceful as Sam in a way that she wasn't -- or couldn't be -- as Hermione Granger, and Miller, who has made a cottage industry out of playing vulnerable, eccentric characters (which is admirable, but it would be great to see what he could do playing a quieter role).
Author Stephen Chbosky directed this adaptation of his book, and the movie bears the imprint of his careful hands. But it feels strangely modern for a story set in the early 1990s (the cultural references say as much), and Charlie's stunning revelation in the end is hurried, and so doesn't stun as much as it should. The parents, too, feel like afterthoughts, confusing given the caliber of actors playing them (Dylan McDermott, for one). But on the whole, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a gem, and certainly not a wallflower to ignore.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie depicts teens. Are the characters and their decisions realistic? What about the consequences of those decisions?
How does the movie portray drinking and drug use? Are they glamorized? If you've read the book, how does the movie's take on these subjects compare?
How does the movie depict bullying? What should teens do if that happens to them? What should they do if they see it happening to someone else?
Parents, ask your teens about the sense of alienation that the movie suggests teenagers have. Are real teens this disaffected and disillusioned?
- In theaters: September 21, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: February 12, 2013
- Cast: Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Logan Lerman
- Director: Stephen Chbosky
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight - all involving teens
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