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Coming of age is a sub-genre of film that has given us many great films but nothing that would make a critic ejaculate high praise or set the box office on fire. They are neither laugh-out-loud comedies, nor intense dramas. Let's just call them a dramedy. Since the reaction of these films is not based on any extreme, they usually don't get championed at the time they get released. Time is kinder to them. If I had it my way, films like these would come with a "based on a true story" tag. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a film that rings true on so many levels that it feels silly to call it a high school movie. Probably call it a heartfelt film about adolescence, which probably sounds too serious.
The best way to crown this film without any label would be to put it in the company of films like Rebel Without A Cause (1955), American Graffiti (1973), The Breakfast Club (1985), Dead Poet's Society (1989), Dazed and Confused (1993), Rushmore (1998) and Almost Famous (2000).
The film is indeed delightful, heartfelt and funny. It's been a long time since after watching a film, I came out with an utter sense of contentment. I was sure I had just seen a damn good movie. No questions asked, no doubts raised. It was like I had just visited some people's lives and been a part of their world. It is odd to find it relatable without having ever gone to an American high school.
The book is funny and charming but it is no Catcher in the Rye. The film expertly captures the essence of the book. It reminds you of a lot of firsts in your life. Your first crush, kiss or fight. It is dazzlingly nostalgic and silently cathartic. Yes, it is as good as the book (if not better) and exhibits that authors can direct good films out of their own material, if given a chance. Stephen Chbosky has good taste in music and films (evident by the songs and movies named in the book/ film) but it wouldn't help in making a good film. For that, you need skills. Thankfully, he clearly knows what makes a good film as well.
The casting of the three leads is perfect. Emma Watson is a beauty. She IS Sam. I quote from the film "I am looking at her and she is SO beautiful". Gone are the Harry Potter days when I had a teenage crush on her. We welcome the actress who can be taken seriously. (Can I still have a crush on her?). I was a little apprehensive about Ezra Miller playing Patrick since I have only seen him play the diabolical Kevin in the masterful We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011) (If you want to watch the polar opposite of a warmhearted high school movie, this is it). The actor that took me by surprise was Logan Lerman. I have only seen him in Percy Jackson before and I didn't think much of him. I was supremely impressed by his take on Charlie; it is layered, poignant and relatable. I could even shower the highest praise on him and say he is the reason why you should watch the film. It isn't a showy performance by a child actor that wins awards but it is one that moves you without making a big deal out of it.
There are certain films, which become pop cultural phenomena without ever having caused a widespread stir. There are certain films which don't have any hype or big box office numbers. Certain films which don't end up on critics lists of the best films of the year. There are films which you just know you will be watching and quoting for many years to come. A film you can recommend to anyone and everyone you know. You will listen to the soundtrack and know each song. What these movies have in common is the ability to make friends with you, even give you a hug.