The perks of being a wallflower are few and far between, in my experience, and I’m not even convinced you can be a wallflower if you are as ravishing as, say, Emma Watson, who modelled for Burberry whenever her Harry Potter schedule would allow, which isn’t the way it usually works for wallflowers, but what do I know, really? In fact, this being a teenage coming-of-age drama, I will now hand over to a teenager, although not a willing one, as he is anxious to escape to ‘top field’ to do ‘nothing’ with ‘just people’. Still, I have bribed him with the promise of a tenner and a lifetime supply of Lynx (Africa) and so here he is, quizzing me:
What is it about? And be quick, as I have to go top field to do nothing with just people.
Why don’t you go out with some unjust people for a change, like Kim Jong-un, who might be available. You’ll never know unless you ask.
Ha-ha. You’re hilarious. NOT!
OK, it’s set in Pittsburgh in the early Nineties and is based on the 1999 novel by the American author Stephen Chbosky, who also directs. I’d never heard of him, or the book, but apparently it’s sold zillions and is studied in schools. It sounds like it may be a younger generation’s Catcher in the Rye, not that anything could be another Catcher in the Rye, one of my favourite books of all time which you dismissed as ‘boring’ after Chapter Two, you big, lazy chump.
It was boring. But I did like The Kite Runner, didn’t I?
You did, but then you stopped reading it halfway through when you changed English classes and no longer had to read it. It was like: ‘Now I don’t have to enjoy this book, I won’t.’
Why would I? Are we done?
OK, our central character is Charlie (Logan Lerman), who is nervous about starting high school because he is shy and unpopular and fears no one will sit next to him at lunch, which nobody does. He views himself as an alienated outsider but is then taken up by a fellow older student Sam (Emma Watson), who views herself as an alienated outsider, and her flamboyantly gay step-brother Patrick (Ezra Miller), who views himself as an alienated outsider, and their punk-rocky friend Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman), who likes herself and has no self-esteem issues. Only kidding. She also views herself as an alienated outsider.
You are so hilarious, mum. Is Perks as bad as Kes, which you once made me watch?
Kes blew my find when I first saw it. It still blows my mind.
It was boring. Can I have my tenner now?
There was something about this film I just couldn’t buy.
You’re too old. You remember Saturday nights without a mobile when, if you said you’d be outside Woolworths at 6 p.m., you had to be outside Woolworths at 8 p.m. That’s sick.
Fair enough. I’ll give you that. And although, to my mind, all teenage movies will fail by the yardstick that is Gregory’s Girl, I liked Juno, didn’t I? And Submarine. But they had charm, humour and originality, whereas this is just so generic.
Gregory’s Girl was so, so boring.
Actually, this is boring, and it’s partly that believability thing. How many alienated outsiders do you have to gather together before they become insiders? Alternatively, they are all so good-looking, smart and well-heeled, they are winners, surely. They all have troubled pasts, but because these aren’t threaded adequately through the narrative, their experiences never become part of their characters. Charlie, for example, blurts out that his best friend committed suicide — ‘Oh, he shot himself last May, kind of wish he’d left a note’ — but this is never mentioned again. Meanwhile, Sam has responded to her own childhood issues by becoming the school slag, although, again, we only have her say-so. I think most kids would make a beeline to sit at the table with any one of them. That said, the last 15 minutes becomes a different film altogether, where Charlie’s psychiatric difficulties are further explored, but it’s too little too late. It’s as if Girl, Interrupted had been tacked on at the end.
Is there any sex?
Not to speak of. This is more like an old-fashioned romance. Charlie has a crush on Sam, and although we know he is right for her, will she ever realise? It is all quite inert, dramatically, and all a bit Mary and Matthew. A cliché. Meanwhile, although Ms Watson, in her first post-Hermione role, does not embarrass herself, these characters are all so weakly sketched she is not properly tested. Plus, there are all sorts of inconsistencies. Why is there no adult supervision in the school lunch-room? How come these kids know all the words to The Rocky Horror Show but have never heard of Bowie?
Bowie is boring. Can I go now?
Better had…and one last thing: you won’t forget to not call me on the mobile I pay for, will you?