There’s one thing I should address right up front. Movies require us to suspend our disbelief to get caught up in them. This film has a bigger leap than some. In order to get into the movie you have to believe that a cool, pretty Senior girl would befriend, help, spend time with, and maybe even have feelings for, a loner Freshman boy. Such a girl is about as mythical a creature as the wizards in the Harry Potter universe. If you can go with that, though, this is quite a good movie.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is entering high school. His family (father played by Dylan McDermott, mother played by Kate Walsh, and sister Candace played by Nina Dobrev) has tried to move on after some bad stuff happened in Charlie’s life. His best friend killed himself and it messed Charlie up some, too. He enters high school with no friends.
His English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) inspires him, but Charlie is having a very hard time with the other students. Luckily he soon meets Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller). They are both Seniors and are almost inseparable. They don’t much care what anyone else thinks of them and they bring Charlie into their group of friends and make him a part of all their activities.
It’s not all happiness and light from then on, though. Naturally Charlie is immediately attracted to Sam, and isn’t thrilled when she dates some guys that Charlie feels are not good enough for her. Charlie has kept his past problems a secret, but events will unfold that will cause them to come out into the open, and it will impact his life going forward.
The film appears to be set around 1990, although there were a couple of songs from later into the 90s used in the film. Speaking of which, the movie has a good soundtrack, with songs from Sonic Youth, XTC, The Smiths, Love and Rockets, and many others. It is written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, the man who wrote the original novel that the film is based on. I didn’t know this until afterwards, but there was nothing about the film that made it feel like it was coming from a less experienced director.
Lerman does a decent job in the lead role of Charlie. It is a little obvious that he’s not 14 like his character, but that’s pretty common in movies. Actually, he was older than Ezra Miller, who was playing the elder character in the film. I confess that having Emma Watson in it had made me wonder a little. She’s quite appealing, but it can be very difficult to move on after becoming so well identified as a single character (just ask Mark Hamill). In this case she ended up making me believe that she might have a career after Harry Potter.
Despite the Senior girl/Freshman boy thing, the film is a more realistic depiction of teenagers. There’s no politically correct “I must remain a virgin”, “I can’t drink”, “I will immediately report anything that could remotely be construed as abusive”, etc. Instead, the teenagers in this film are more three dimensional and therefore more believable.
I have not read the book that the film is based on, so I cannot tell you how they compare. Considering that the author is the one who made the film I’m sure he brought with him the parts of the novel that he felt were important.
If you are an adult who has discounted this film because it looks like it’s “just a teen movie”, that is understandable. All I’m saying is that if you give it a chance you might just find it to be quite a good film. I highly recommend it.
Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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