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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A formula-hugging coming-of-age soaper whose fringe benefits include memorable perfs from its trio of young talents -- chiefly Emma Watson breaking type as a reformed bad girl -- and classy cameos from its older set.

With:
Charlie - Logan Lerman
Sam - Emma Watson
Patrick - Ezra Miller
Mary Elizabeth - Mae Whitman
Mother - Kate Walsh
Father - Dylan McDermott
Aunt Helen - Melanie Lynskey
Dr. Burton - Joan Cusack
Mr. Anderson - Paul Rudd

Certainly not without its silver lining, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is a formula-hugging coming-of-age soaper whose fringe benefits include memorable perfs from its trio of young talents — chiefly a post-“Harry Potter” Emma Watson breaking type as a reformed bad girl — and classy cameos from its older set. First-time writer-director Stephen Chbosky adapts his young-adult bestseller with far more passion than skill, which suits familiar scenes of adolescent awkwardness aptly enough. Summit’s back-to-school supply item should earn decent grades at the B.O. en route to the ancillary honor roll.

Give or take a highly false-ringing reveal in the third act, surprises are few in a film whose source material one hardly needs to have skimmed to know that the ninth-grade wallflower eventually blooms. As meek geek-turned-clique member Charlie, lanky Logan Lerman (“Percy Jackson and the Olympians”) looks the part in addition to sharing Chbosky’s preference for emotion over intellect. Introduced forlornly addressing an imaginary friend in longhand circa 1991, frosh Charlie soon endears himself to senior Sam (Watson) and her irreverent stepbrother, Patrick (Ezra Miller, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”), as well as to English-teaching Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd), who keeps the kid on a steady diet of literary classics that Charlie supposedly loves but never much mentions.

In addition to Charlie’s cloyingly conventional voiceovers, his childhood memories of the late Aunt Helen (Melanie Lynskey, seen in flashback) end up stalling the movie’s momentum until the next period pop tune and/or party scene. After accidentally downing a pot brownie, the recovering wallflower implausibly regales the cool kids with stand-up comedy-style repartee that turns soul-baring. A subsequent scene of Charlie dropping acid at another teenage bash is representative of Chbosky’s childish tendency to play the same song over and over again.

Watson is radiant as Charlie’s almost-but-not-quite g.f., who grooves to David Bowie’s “Heroes” while standing in the back of a speeding pickup and then spends the rest of the pic trying to find the song for her next mixtape — the most authentic-feeling of the film’s too-few period details. As the vegan punk Buddhist whom Charlie dates in lieu of Sam, Mae Whitman steals a handful of scenes and leaves the viewer wanting more, while Nina Dobrev, as department store shoplifter Candace, is barely allowed to register.

Tech credits of the Pittsburgh-set pic pass the test, though Alexandra Patsavas’s all-important music supervision merits a C for sporting at least one anachronistic rocker.

Popular on Variety

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Production: A Lionsgate release of a Summit Entertainment presentation of a Mr. Mudd production. Produced by Lianne Halfon, Russell Smith, John Malkovich. Executive producers, James Powers, Stephen Chbosky. Co-producer, Gillian Brown. Directed, written by Stephen Chbosky, based on his novel.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Andrew Dunn; editor, Mary Joe Markey; music, Michael Brook; music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas; production designer, Inbal Weinberg; art director, Gregory Weimerskirch; set decorator, Merissa Lombardo; costume designer, David C. Robinson; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS), Jeffree Bloomer; supervising sound editors, Perry Robertson, Scott Sanders; re-recording mixers, Joe Barnett, Marshall Garlington; special effects supervisor, Russell Tyrrell; visual effects supervisor, Adam Avitabile; visual effects, Look Effects; stunt coordinator, Blaise Corrigan; associate producers, Chris Gary, Ava Dellaira; assistant director, Chip Signore; casting, Mary Vernieu, Venus Kanani. Reviewed at Showplace Icon, St. Louis Park, Minn., August 29, 2012. (In Toronto Film Festival -- Special Presentations.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 103 MINS.

With: Charlie - Logan Lerman
Sam - Emma Watson
Patrick - Ezra Miller
Mary Elizabeth - Mae Whitman
Mother - Kate Walsh
Father - Dylan McDermott
Aunt Helen - Melanie Lynskey
Dr. Burton - Joan Cusack
Mr. Anderson - Paul RuddWith: Nina Dobrev, Johnny Simmons, Nicholas Braun, Reece Thompson.

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