Sometimes an inexperienced filmmaker can use a helping hand from his cast. That's exactly what Stephen Chbosky got from Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in the adaptation of his popular young adult novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Thanks to his stars, the film is a smartly observed study of a troubled teen's first year in high school.
Set in a comfortable Pittsburgh suburb in 1991, the film quickly drops us into Charlie's fraught first days, which only solidify his fears that in high school at least he will forever be a friendless fringe player.
His luck begins changing when he braves a football game alone and makes a point of bumping into Patrick (Miller), the brazenly eccentric senior in his shop class. That brings an introduction to Patrick's stepsister Sam (Emma Watson in her best post-”Harry Potter” turn yet) and the idea of a life beyond loser-dom starts to take shape.
From there the film digs into the messy business of figuring out who you are. The journey there would probably have proved too dreary if not for Patrick and Sam. While Charlie is the “wallflower,” Patrick and Sam throw themselves into every experience. Now they drag Charlie along for the ride.
Chbosky trusts his audience to understand the subtext of moments without throwing in a lot of unnecessary explanations. That requires a more nuanced level of acting and the core cast is very adept at pulling it off.