Too often we shackle movies to literature, judging films on how true (or false) the cinematic treatise is to its source material.
I confess to coloring my own critiques with preconceived literary notions: Hunger Games, in my estimation, failed miserably to live up to the novel while I enjoyed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (both adaptations) much more than Stieg Larsson's fiction.
But The Perks of Being a Wallflower--an elegant film about the inelegance of young adulthood--not only honors the bestselling epistolary novel embraced by a generation, but is a fully realized cinematic experience. It exceeds expectations, and then some.
Considering no less weighty themes than self-harm, homophobia and depression, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a life-affirming embrace that never becomes maudlin or finger-wagging preachy. Stephen Chbosky adapted his own 1999 novel for the screen and then doubled-down as the film's director. I'm happy to report that in his debut behind-the-lens effort, Chbosky is a fine filmmaker.
Starring Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), the wonderful Emma Watson (Harry Potter) and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin), Perks revisits the unfriendly confines of high school, complete with cliques, misfits and screenings of Rocky Horror Picture Show--overly familiar backdrops, yet Chbosky is able to make them all feel relevant, earnest and even fresh.
There are many things to champion in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but the soundtrack, which features a classic mix tape of the 1980s and '90s--including The Smiths and Sonic Youth--is a must-have.
Unfortunately the soundtrack, direction, script, acting and just about everything else to do with this week's other coming-of-age dramedy is out-of-tune. Liberal Arts just can't grow up.
Despite some decent on-screen talent (Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Allison Janney), this tale of a 30-something guy drawn to a teenage co-ed is instantly forgettable. With plot devices more contrived than natural, I found Liberal Arts to be one part sweet, but two parts creepy. Olsen's character is thinking about midterms while Radnor's is thinking about middle-age. Why would anyone want to see these two hook up?
I'm guessing that Radnor, who wrote and directed this mess, is hoping to attract the pervert demographic. Suffice to say, Liberal Arts didn't meet expectations.
My advice: Go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower, twice.