A supremely wet and cosily generic high school/growing pains movie from YA author, Stephen Chbosky.
Stephen Chbosky lends his shaky directorial hand to this adaptation of his own bestselling Young Adult novel, a whimsical remembrance of the bliss and breakdown of his high-school years. Dispensing with a linear plot, the film is comprised of a series of gooey-eyed episodes, not a single one of which would’ve looked out of place in your average episode of ersatz Reaganite balljuice, The Wonder Years.
Logan Lerman plays Charlie, a hypersensitive dullard who falls in with a crowd of older hepcats, among them Ezra Miller’s flouncing gay hellraiser, Patrick, and Emma Watson’s impulsive dream pixie, Sam. Throughout the film, Charlie ploughs his way through the pantheon of classic American literature, the suggestion being that his life magically mirrors the books he’s reading. So one minute he’s Jay Gatsby, yearning for the hand of the seemingly unattainable Sam. Then he’s Sal Paradise, whacked out on LSD and making snow angels in the driveway.
Later he’s Holden Caulfield, at once publicly elated and privately depressed, and then he’s Henry David Thoreau, left alone to take stock of life and loneliness. While the concept itself is neat, the film suffers badly from a weak sense of humour and near total lack of awareness of the highschool genre. Its cast of characters, too, are all vapid archetypes, from the jock with the secret love life to the yapping alterno best friend to the inspirational teacher to the stern but loving parents.
Miller steals the film whenever he’s on camera, his natural energy and lack of self-consciousness lifting the thin material. But it’s not enough. And we’ve really got to have a moratorium on movies in which teenagers talk about how cool The Smiths are. It makes the film and its characters look deeply uncool and disconnected. Nobody ever talks about how cool The Smiths are. They never have and they never will. Get over it.
Will Emma Watson be afflicted by the curse of Potter?
A clever conceptual backbone is concealed by a whole lot of wishy-washy soap opera.
Seek out the infinitely superior The Myth of the American Sleepover for an original and moving take on similar material.