With Oscar voting in full swing, EW’s Prize Fighter is kicking off the “Consider This” series, asking folks with Oscar histories of their own to share their personal favorites of the year. James Franco, a lead actor nominee for 127 Hours two years ago, made his breakthrough on the coming-of-age TV series Freaks and Geeks and gave us this love letter to another story in that genre: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which stars Logan Lerman as a meek kid grappling with a troubled past, Emma Watson as a girl isolated by a bad reputation, and Ezra Miller as their defiant gay friend (nicknamed “Nothing”) who refuses to be shamed into hiding who he is.
It’s hard to do a film about high school nowadays and not have it suck.
There are so many television shows that, on a weekly basis, use and exhaust all there is to mine from that time of life: bullies, outcasts, jocks, artsy kids, falling in love for the first time, doing everything for the first time, realizing the adult world is just as flawed as the teenage world, figuring out who you want to be, learning how to fight for the person you want to be, etc.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower somehow stands apart and feels relevant. I think more than anything it is the characters and the acting that pulls this movie through. It’s not as if the character types are anything we haven’t seen before, but here they are portrayed with such honesty and vitality that they rise above cliché and feel true.
I know that Emma Watson fought to get this film made, and that Stephen Chbosky was a first-time director adapting his own book, meaning that there was a lot of personal investment in this project, and it shows; it shows in the love that emanates from the characters and how they’re depicted.
You can feel the actors actually falling for each other and creating a supportive world around themselves that they are gracious enough to share with audiences; they are young actors experiencing something real and we get to watch. When Logan Lerman’s character falls into a relationship with a girl he doesn’t even like [played by Mae Whitman] I want to say, “I know that! I’ve experienced that!” When Emma Watson’s character turns out to be the school slut, I want to instantly befriend her. And Ezra Miller, well he makes me want to be gay, his character is so full of vitality.
High school is a time and place that can be done so wrong, but these wallflowers do it so right. They embrace the outcasts, and they don’t shy away from the hard issues teens face: sex, drugs, suicide, mental illness; and they capture the beauty of youth: friendship, love, creativity.
— James Franco
The Perks of Being a Wallflower opened in September and hits Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 12.
It has previously been named one of the Top 10 films of 2012 by the National Board of Review, is nominated for best first feature at the Independent Spirit Awards, and was nominated for best adapted screenplay at the Critics Choice Awards, where Lerman is also up for best young actor.
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