Released in cinemas 3rd October 2012.
Author Stephen Chbosky makes his directorial debut by adapting his dreamy teenage novel, swathed in nostalgia. Those of a certain age will look fondly at this rite of passage movie, that ticks all the usual coming of age boxes in an early ’90s setting.
Logan Lerman wasn’t responsible for Chris Columbus’ decidedly average kickstarting of the Percy Jackson franchise, and the young actor finally shines as a warm and sympathetic leading man. Lerman is nervy Pittsburgh highschooler Charlie, who - despite his movie star looks - convinces as a painfully shy and sensitive type with a staggering amount of intuition.
When Charlie bonds with riotous bohemian misfit Patrick (the riveting We Need to Talk About Kevin star Ezra Miller) and his sweet, confident stepsister Sam (Harry Potter’s Emma Watson successfully adopting her first American accent), the troubled youngster comes out of his shell in a genuinely heartwarming manner.
Chbosky absolutely nails the romanticism of youth in a timeless way, although he is guilty of far too many twee moments. Subjects like homosexuality and drug use are touched upon in such a mature and grown-up way it often feels like a comforting public service announcement. Nothing gets too risqué, and even when Watson and co. put on a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, it looks like a bunch of kids raided their mothers’ dressing up box. So when it comes to the story’s unexpected sting in the tail, it feels out of place tonally. Issues raised in the film get considerably darker, but the journey has been too cutesy for it to make an impact, despite the commitment of the cast.
Alongside Lerman’s remarkable depth, Miller plays his quirky oddball self with a bewitching theatricality as he winds up his classmates and teachers. Watson is affecting as the teenager working out her status as a young woman and the complexities of relationships, although her innate primness detracts from the meatier moments. Mae Whitman is likeable as one of the key members of the older goth kids in their special circle of friends, and Paul Rudd is his usual easy-going presence as the teacher who encourages Charlie’s love of literature.
It’s an attractive, assured debut from Chbosky, who knows exactly how to use his cast and time every beat. Unashamedly corny, some funny, tender and touching scenes stand out in a muddled melodrama - would three arty Smiths fans really not be able to identify David Bowie’s Heroes in a key scene?