Rock 'n' Roll High School

The Perks of Being a Wallflower revisits an old school theme

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is your stereotypical nerd. He likes to read classic literary novels and doesn't care much for sports. As he begins freshman year of high school, he's worried the other kids won't take kindly to his predilections.

Turns out, he was right.

Charlie comes off as such an introvert that no one even wants to sit next to him in the cafeteria. Only his equally nerdy English teacher (Paul Rudd) shows him any compassion. Oh, how it sucks to be young and misunderstood. That's the premise of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, writer-director Stephen Chbosky's adaptation of his own epistolary novel that MTV Books published in 1999. The first half of the film, which opens areawide on Friday, presents an engaging coming-of-age story, but the second half embraces far too much melodrama.

While Charlie's first day is particularly tough, things change when he meets Sam (Emma Watson) and her flamboyant, secretly gay half-brother, Patrick (Ezra Miller). The two introduce him to an alternative world of film (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and music (the Smiths), and Charlie quickly falls for Sam. While Sam appears interested in Charlie, too, she generally dates older guys, and Charlie has a hard time finding the right moment to officially ask her out.

Sexually frustrated, Charlie gives up on Sam and starts dating one of her friends. He then realizes he's made a mistake; the resulting breakup alienates him from his new friends, and he has a meltdown. And there's even more melodrama. Patrick gets in a fight in the cafeteria after a kid calls him a fag. And Sam begins dating some pretentious college guy. It's all a bit overwhelming, and it's not giving too much away to reveal that Charlie — who has had mental issues since his aunt died — ends up losing it.

Thankfully, music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas (the music-savvy woman behind the Twilight soundtracks) has selected a who's who of early-'90s alternative acts, including Sonic Youth, Galaxie 500, XTC, Dexys Midnight Runners, New Order and Cracker, for the soundtrack. These retro alt-rock sounds keep things interesting even when the storyline spirals out of control. While these bands probably won't appeal to the demographic the film is designed to appeal to, they do serve to create a nice sonic backdrop, and many of the tunes provide more eloquent expressions of teenage angst than does the film itself.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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