We’ve seen these stories thousands of times, but ya know what? If you make them well, nobody will complain. That’s why this movie is getting great word of mouth and positive reviews.
The fact that the best-selling book was adapted for the screen and directed by it’s author – Stephen Chbosky – was a smart move. The fact that that the filmmakers didn’t try to exploit Emma Watson, who would surely be a big draw from her Harry Potter fame, was also smart. She’s just one of many great young actors.
Ezra Miller is fun as the gay party animal. To think that this is the same kid that was so terrifying in We Need to Talk About Kevin…blows my mind.
Mae Whitman plays a Buddhist punk who is interesting and steals a few scenes.
The narrator is Charlie, played wonderfully vulnerable by Logan Lerman. There are big things ahead for this kid.
You’ll recognize some of the adults. Joan Cusack as a doctor, Dylan McDermott as a caring but tough dad, Paul Rudd as that one teacher that gets it and cares. Although I think it’s a goofy cliché when a teacher gives books to a student. Especially the classics. Why give him Catcher in the Rye when it’s probably part of the curriculum. Hand him a book that was influential but that not everybody would know.
That’s a rather small complaint, though.
Charlie narrates the movie by writing letters to his “friend.” That friend killed himself, and we see early on that it’s going to be a struggle for him. The parents are often talking about his medication, visions, and episodes. One very touching moment comes when Charlie asks his dad for $30 around the holidays. He wants to buy his friends gifts. The dad seems a bit loopy from egg nog, and asks “$20 dollars! What do you need $10 for?”
He smiles and hands the kid a 50, obviously pleased to see his son finding his place among some high school friends.
These friends might call themselves “the island of misfit toys,” and sure…they might not be in the popular cliques. Yet everybody watching the movie could see how it would’ve been fun to hang out with this eclectic bunch.
Charlie has a big crush on Emma Watson, but I think everyone watching the movie did. She seems like such a natural on screen. Although I was a bit peeved by the idiotic audience at the second screening I attended for this movie. They laughed at a scene in which she discusses something that is anything but funny. It makes me wonder if audiences are that dense, or they’re just so used to bad movies and sitcoms that they laugh during the parts they think they’re supposed to.
Another small pet peeve I have is when hip kids talk about music. It was done poorly in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist and a few other films recently. In this, we hear them talking in great detail about The Smiths. We see posters of the band. We hear XTC, L7, and New Order on the soundtrack. Yet when they hear the David Bowie/Brian Eno classic Heroes on the radio, they are blown away (as well they should be). I’m just not sure why they don’t know who or what it is, or how to even track the song down. It was the name of a Bowie album! I’m guessing a quick trip to a Tower Records and query at the counter, would’ve resulted in finding this track. Again, these are small complaints.
There were so many interesting scenes in this movie. One of them involved the kids exchanging secret santa gifts. It was touching, funny, and realistic. Sometimes you want to see high school kids acting (and looking) like kids. Yes, it’s fun watching Ferris Bueller get away with his antics, but is it really that realistic?
There was a school dance that had an adorable scene where Charlie comes out of his shell (perfectly to the beat of Come on, Eileen).
This coming-of-age comedy ended up working, even if you get a little tired of all the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and kids giving their take on life and love.
I’m wondering why the filmmaker didn’t change the name of the university many of the kids talked about attending. After everything that happened at Penn State recently, it was a bit distracting hearing it talked about so often.
This is a teen comedy even adults will enjoy.
It gets 3 stars out of 5.