Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson. Written and directed by Stephen Chbovsky. 14A. 103 min. Opens Sept. 28.
An hour and a half alone with one’s own iTunes library is probably a more edifying experience than watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a pop-music-drenched early-’90s period piece that finds one more literarily minded teenaged misfit pining for a muse. In this case, it’s Charlie (Logan Lerman), a loner with dark secrets who’s infatuated with Sam (Emma Watson), a high-school classmate with a matching set of baggage, a weakness for moany Morrissey lyrics, and a (manic) pixie-ish bob.
Adapting his own young-adult novel for the screen, writer-director Steven Chbovsky proves that he’s at least watched a few other movies as preparation: the wintry Pittsburgh atmosphere is borrowed from Wonder Boys, while Charlie’s initiation into a group of highbrow high-school misfits is like a Generation-Y remix of Carey Mulligan’s adventures in An Education. Charlie’s makeshift family of flamboyant adolescent outliers includes carpe-diem ringleader Patrick (Ezra Miller) and movie-mad Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman). And while their group’s rapport is charming enough, Chbovsky won’t commit to having them do anything too fun or frivolous.
Instead, the film is determined to unravel the mysterious origins of Charlie’s consuming depression and anxiety—good news for Charlie, perhaps, but a dead-end destination for viewers who’ve
been on this ride before. A key image of kids barrelling down the freeway in a convertible (listening to a favourite song, naturally) is meant to evoke the fleet, careening sensations of youth, but it only evokes memories of other teen-movies—a faint Xerox of an old cliché.