Appearances can be deceiving. As clichés go, this one seems most apt for 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower - the marketing suggesting a harmless quirky indie comedy-drama yet the subsequent cinematic experience steadily explores unexpectedly dark territory. A heartfelt teenage tale that is unshakeably affecting and emotionally draining - an excellent addition to the coming-of-age genre.
Stephen Chbosky's directorial debut is an adaptation of his own novel, having originally published 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' in 1999. Its subsequent reception proved divisive - warmly accepted by many adolescent (and otherwise) readers worldwide but banned in several schools in America for its themes of drug use, teen sexuality and abuse.
Our introspective "wallflower" Charlie (Logan Lerman) is starting his first year of high school, and is understandably nervous considering his difficulty in making friends. However, Charlie manages to befriend older misfit Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson) - who introduce their new friend into their group of relative misfits, a path that encapsulates the crippling lows and triumphant highs of teenage years.
Far from being a run-of-the-mill, big screen soap opera, 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' often takes an unsettling direction - examining homophobia and child abuse, for example. Yet 'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' masterfully moves from intense drama to moments of comedy effortlessly, announcing Stephen Chbosky as a director of impressive talent.
Chbosky revels in his well-crafted story, and is rewarded by the performances of his central characters. Logan Lerman playing the subtleties of Charlie superbly, Emma Watson stepping firmly out of the 'Harry Potter' shadow (albeit with relatively little to do), while Ezra Miller showing his range after his disturbing performance in last year's 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'.
'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' also captures its 1980s period setting wonderfully, particularly through its evocative soundtrack and emotive score. Yet the music is equally one of the film's frustrations - a central plot point revolves around the trio being almost inexplicably unaware of a seminal David Bowie track, considering their love of the likes of The Smiths and Nick Drake. The mis-steps are rare however in this skilfully layered melodrama.
'The Perks Of Being A Wallflower' is out now in UK cinemas, through Entertainment One.