The Perks of Being A Wallflower, rated PG-13

Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd, Melanie Lynskey, Joan Cusack

Austin Family critical rating: 4 of 5 stars
Austin Family family-friendly rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Perks of Being A Wallflower, director Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own very popular novel, is the kind of movie that I think would provide comfort to any young person going through a rough time in middle or high school. I haven’t read the book, but from the film alone I can gather why this story resonates with so many high school students. Even as a college student, I watched the film with tears in my eyes, nodding and smiling at many scenes that felt familiar and real. The film is problematic in some areas (I think there’s a stronger film to be made about social anxiety among high school students), but it’s tough to fault this picture when it is so warm and understanding toward its characters.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) begins his freshman year of high school without any friends, sitting by himself at the lunch table and writing letters by night to his recently deceased best friend. When he meets Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his beautiful half-sister Sam (Emma Watson), however, things start to turn around for him. He slowly starts to fit in with his new group of friends and come into his own, while also reading through many of the finest works of American literature, thanks to his caring and supportive English teacher (Paul Rudd).

There’s no doubt that The Perks of Being a Wallflower deals with some heavy thematic issues, including abuse, suicide and social ostracization. However, by addressing these issues maturely and in a complex manner, I think this film does a great service to high school students, who are invariably going to experience some of these darker elements during their schooling. Although the film isn’t always the most hyper-realistic depiction of high school life, it comes much closer to capturing the complexity of those formative years than any other film in recent memory. It’s a movie I would have responded to when I was sixteen, and I responded strongly to it now.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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