Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 16th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

High School Confidential

film perksCult teen novel morphs into disarming film in 'Perks Of Being A Wallflower'  

Anyone who's ever felt like an outsider in high school—which is anyone who has ever been a teenager—will be able to relate to The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. It's adapted from Stephen Chbosky's 1999 Young Adult cult novel sensation about a troubled teen entering his freshman year of high school desperately searching for someone to connect with before his internal demons swallow him up. It may sound overly melodramatic, although in this case, the protagonist's demons are more real and sinister than most. But the importance of finding an emotional safety net and a place to fit in gives this disarming movie a very universal appeal.

A lot can be lost in translation from page to screen, but here, Chbosky writes and directs the film himself. Having not read the book, I can't tell you exactly what's been cut out, but issues of drugs, teen drinking, sexuality, mental instability and a dark family secret all surface in the film. That said, the tone is surprisingly gentle, even benign, through most of the picaresque vignettes that make up the storyline, buoyed by some great performances in the leading roles.

Fifteen-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman), is a latecomer to his freshman year, after spending time in an institution and the harrowing loss of his best friend. Smart and sensitive, he knows he has to make friends to pull himself out of depression, but he's either harassed or ignored by the cool kids, and he's counting the days until high school will finally be over for good. The only simpatico person he meets on the first day of classes is an English teacher (Paul Rudd) who starts loaning him books.

In freshman shop class, Charlie meets Patrick (the terrific Ezra Miller), an irreverent senior who has to take the class over in order to graduate. Sensing a kindred spirit, Patrick takes Charlie under his wing and introduces him to his stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson), also a senior, a fun-loving beauty trying to overcome the excesses of her younger years and get her life back on track. (Watson is likable and spirited, although she seems a little wholesome for a girl haunted by her slutty past.)

Through Sam and Patrick, Charlie falls in with a small band of artsy outsider kids who dance to the beat of a different drummer. "Welcome to the island of misfit toys," Sam tells him, and his delight at finding his own tribe is palpable. Of course, complications arise, notably Charlie's crush on Sam, even though she's dating another guy, which is intensified when one of the other girls wants Charlie's attention. Patrick's covert love affair with a jock on the football team is at constant risk of exposure. And bit by bit, Charlie must confront the buried secret at the root of his own angst that could engulf him at any moment.

Set in the 1990s, the film is also a flashback feast of Clinton-era music, styles and pop culture. Everyone makes and shares mix tapes (as in audio) and goes to interactive midnight shows of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (where Patrick, of course, plays the part of Dr. Frank-N-Furter). No one has an iPhone; there's no texting or tweeting, and no one has the option of a virtual online community to provide the illusion of relationships. These kids have to make a community the old-fashioned way—having conversations face-to-face, sharing experiences, revealing themselves in sometimes scary ways, trusting each other.

Not everything rings true. It's unclear how these kids have access to the parent-free party house where they experiment with booze, loaded brownies and LSD. And while baby-faced Legman certainly looks 15 (the actor is 20), he and the others seem a wee bit too poised and sophisticated for high school. (Although that's probably just how Chbosky, like most of us, chooses to remember his own high school days.) film perks

Still, wry, scene-stealing Miller is practically worth the price of admission all by himself. And scenes where Patrick and Sam kick out the jams at a school dance, or the three friends drive through a tunnel, screaming madly for life, underscore all the drama and hope and possibility of youth that this movie so poignantly conveys. 


HHH (out of four)

Watch film trailer >>>

With Logan Legman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
Written and directed by Stephen Chbosky.
A Summit Entertainment release. Rated PG-13. 103 minutes.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Aries Solar Festival

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Symbolizing victory and triumph, paradise, sacrifice and martyrdom, the Pisces World Teacher entered Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (signifying humility).


Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.


Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.


Printer's Devil

Iconic editor Buz Bezore, who died last month at the age of 68, left a huge mark on Santa Cruz journalism   Eventually, it’s all a blur. You live long enough, and maybe a little too hard at times, so that when you hit the rewind button of faded memory, it moves so fast that you can hardly sort and gather the details. One scene skips to the next, and to the next, without proper editing or sequencing. Chronologies get distorted. Which came first: stealing the chickens or coloring the eggs?
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments


Foodie File: Yan Flower

Yan Belleville has owned Yan Flower, an affordable Chinese restaurant in Downtown Santa Cruz, with her husband Raymond for eight years, and it’s a family affair. Her brother, sister, sister-in-law, and cousins work there too. Locals know the joint for its massive lunch specials starting at $4.


How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management


Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX


Comanche Cellars

Pinot Noir 2010 I first tasted Comanche Cellars Pinot when a friend brought a bottle to share over lunch at Center Street Grill in Santa Cruz. Upon trying it, I knew I had to find out more about it.