I typically don't agree with the People's Choice Awards because, well, if awards were given based on the movies that the mass public saw and liked, then each 'Transformers' movie would receive countless accolades. A few no-brainer titles always make their cut, but this year I'm actually proud of the People's Choice Awards for deeming 'The Perks of Being A Wallflower' one of 2012's finest – something that the Academy Awards have completely failed to do.
Although based on a 1999 book of the same title, the content of 'Perks' could not have been more socially relevant as it is today. You can hardly watch or listen to the news without hearing about teenagers being involved with suicide, bullying, and murder. It's a tragic epidemic that nobody wants to hear about, but it's prevalent. Acceptance seems to be a huge part of life for the growing youth. Featuring a rainbow of outcast central characters of every sort that are bound together by their oddities, 'Perks' is the coming-of-age positive reinforcement that the struggling out-of-place teenagers of today deserve. I honestly believe that this little film has the power to connect with them through empathy and change lives for the better.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) doesn't fit in anywhere. He's a freshman loner - picked on, publicly humiliated and invisible. At his first high school football game, he goes out on a limb and decides to change his social course. Charlie pumps himself up and asks to sit next to a fellow outcast, Patrick (Ezra Miller) – a happy-go-lucky, loud and gay class clown. Patrick immediately recognizes Charlie as a loner and doesn't think twice about taking him in. Moments later we meet Patrick's equally odd, eccentric stepsister Sam (Emma Watson). She doesn't question Charlie's being there, but doesn't fully connect with him (presumably because he is a freshman and she and Patrick are seniors). It's during their second time hanging out that she connects with him. When the sad truth behind Charlie's loneliness starts being revealed, Sam recognizes why he is the way he is and puts for the grandest effort to make him feel accepted, included and part of something great. As Sam puts it, he becomes part of "the island of misfit toys."
Coming-of-age stories are a dime a dozen, but 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' succeeds in a way that we haven't seen one do in years. It's intimate, honest, personal. I haven't been a teenager in years, yet I didn't have the slightest problem connecting with it. I wasn't left rolling my eyes at the the whiny, overly dramatic teenager caricatures that most of these movies and television series portray them as. Instead, we are given fleshed out three-dimensional characters that are worth spending time with and worth caring about. It's just as easy and natural to laugh with them as it is to cry with them. I can only imagine how much this was made possible by the fact that the author of the novel (Stephen Chbosky) not only wrote the screenplay, but directed the film as well. Of course, none of it would be possible without the fantastic cast that he personally assembled.
21-year-old Logan Lerman is no stranger to great film, as he first gained my attention as Christian Bale's kid in '3:10 to Yuma.' He hasn't done anything of great note since, but that didn't keep me from waiting for it. Here, Lerman stretches farther than we've seen yet. Somehow, he makes it look absolutely effortless. Had he not played the role of Charlie so well, the film would have failed.
Only enhancing and adding to Lerman's strengths is a supporting cast of fine young actors. Completely smashing the iconic image of Hermione Granger from the 'Harry Potter' films, Emma Watson proves that she's got the acting chops to carry a career beyond the Potter-verse. After her first scene, you'll completely forget that you're watching Hermione all grown up. The only area in which she is mildly lacking is in her voice. Watson does a great job hiding her British accent, but traces of it shine through from time to time.
While Watson's performance is meant to steal your heart during every scene she's in – which she does – it's Ezra Miller who steals each scene comically. We have all had unrestrained and completely lovable loud-mouth friends like him, so his character feels like one that we personally know. Other notable cast members include Mae Whitman and Johnny Simmons of 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,' Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Nina Dobrev of 'The Vampire Diaries' and the great Paul Rudd. No matter how big or small their roles may be, each of these characters has a very strong impact on the film. Each adds a different ingredient that ultimately makes this perfectly concise and tight package.
Toss out any preconceived notion that 'Perks' is going to be just another generic coming-of-age flick made for teenagers. That idea couldn't be farther from the truth. 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' is easily one of my favorite films of 2012 and slowly creeps into my Favorite Films of All Time list with each viewing.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Summit Entertainment has placed 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' on a Region A BD-50 in a single-disc blue Elite keepcase. Included is a code for redeeming both an iTunes Digital Copy and an Ultraviolet copy of the film. Printed on the bottom left corner of the front cover art and slipcover is the "Certified Fresh" Rotten Tomatoes insignia. Upon inserting the disc, a load screen with the image of a mixtape pops up prior to two unskippable FBI warnings, a Lionsgate vanity reel, a commentary disclaimer and trailers for 'Warm Bodies,' 'Step Up Revolution,' 'The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2' and a plead to purchase the extended version of 'Breaking Dawn – Part 1.' The perfectly moody main menu shows slow-motion scenes from the film set to the film's soft score.
As much as I wanted 'Perks' to have perfect video quality, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode is pretty disappointing. The DTS demo reel that starts the feature kicks the disc off establishes such promising expectations. A wild range of colors and details can be seen in it – but once the actual film kicks off, those aspects disappear.
Even though I'm about to put down the transfer, I feel that I should preface it. The low-budget look and feel of the film works harmoniously with the tone and mood. Just because it's not the most detailed and colorful of video presentations, it doesn't mean that it detracts from how you receive the film internally.
Although it wasn't, a large chunk of 'Perks' feels like it was shot in a mild soft focus. We are occasionally given scenes that highlight fine details and textures – like the fuzzy soft feel of a white cotton t-shirt and the tiny hairs on Charlie's neck – but those scenes aren't nearly as frequent as we would like them to be.
The film's color palette and lighting work very well together, despite the detail-consuming black levels being far too deep and overwhelming. Especially during the high school scenes where Charlie feels like a fish out of water, the harsh lighting creates an uncomfortable vibe while the warm palette creates a connectability that distances you from his discomfort. This allows you to know how he feels without being overwhelmed by the same awkward and unsafe feelings that he is.
The only compression error to makes its way into the film are few quick shots that reveal noise in the black areas of the screen.
Again, the DTS demo reel that kicks off the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track shows the potential of 'Perks,' but the main feature never quite reaches that level.
The narrative of 'Perks' is strewn together with a voiced-over narration of Charlie reading letters that he wrote to an anonymous pen pal. His inner monologues carry a crisp and deep clarity that make his words come across with subtle significance. The majority of the remainder of the film's dialog follows suit, but there are three instances where the vocals are blown out. During minutes 13, 42 and 98, presumably unexpected loud yells and screams cause crackling distortion. The track doesn't carry much bass at all. I noticed that my subwoofer kept switching back and forth from engaged to disengaged.
'Perks' isn't exactly the type of film that warrants much in the way of effects. It's a moody little picture that uses music as a character. For that reason, the music is fittingly mixed throughout. No two songs appear to be mixed the same; each is distributed through the channels in a way that makes that scene work best.
'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' is one of the most underrated films of 2012. It's an honest and genuine contemporary coming-of-age story that's fit for audiences both old and young. The story and themes are especially relative for the youth of today. I believe that the insight and inspiration that it offers can truly make a positive change for today's teenagers. The great story, combined with lovable characters, a smooth script, natural direction and mood-defining music makes 'Perks' a perfectly wrapped package. Being the very low budget film that it is (everyone worked for scale), the video and audio qualities don't come close to the high-definition standards that we expect from new films. Both are problematic, but the flaws aren't fatal. The special features aren't anything special unless you're a lover of the film. The dual commentaries offer both insight and entertainment. Considering that it's one of my very favorite films of 2012, I wish it had received a better Blu-ray release – but I'm completely content to own it as-is. This is recommended.