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The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) - Movie Review for Parents

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Photo © Summit Entertainment

Bottom line: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a thoughtful, heavy, emotional and at times disturbing coming-of-age story of in introverted teen who finds a group of friends and experiences friendship, strength and growth as well as negative things like drugs and abuse. The movie contains profanity, sexual content (nothing explicit) and drug and alcohol use.

MPAA Rating: PG-13, for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight - all involving teens
Guide age recommendation: 15+
Genre: Teen drama
Runtime: 103 minutes
Starring: Emma Watson, Logan Ler­man, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman
Release Date: September 21, 2012 (limited)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Overview

15-year-old Charlie (Logan Lerman) hasn't seen anyone all summer. He's been dealing with the tragic suicide of his best friend, among other things, and he is now a loner with no friends to speak of. Determined to start high school off right, Charlie begins to write letters to a "friend," and he vows that this year will be better.

At school, Charlie is drawn to an outgoing yet outcast senior named Patrick (Ezra Miller). Charlie becomes friends with Patrick and his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson), along with their long time friends Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman) and Alice (Erin Wilhelmi). Being misfits themselves, the group sort of takes Charlie under their wings. They introduce him to people, invite him to parties and to their performances of the Rocky Horror Show, and they hang out with him at school. Charlie is happy to have a place for once.

Charlie is a bit naive and submissive. He takes drugs at some of the parties, and he allows Mary Elizabeth to make him her boyfriend even though he doesn't have feelings for her. As he sorts through his own problems at school and at home, he also learns of the struggles his friends are going through. Sam hates her real dad, and Patrick is a homosexual in a clandestine relationship with someone who won't acknowledge him in public.

When things take a turn for the worse, Charlie has a chance to prove himself and strengthen his most important relationships. But, with his friends graduating and moving on with their lives, how will Charlie fare when he is left alone again?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Guide Review for Parents

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is aimed at teens and seeks to tell a story that will convey support and understanding to those who may being going through a rough time, as well as illustrate the need we each have to connect with others and illuminate the profound way our decisions can affect our families and others around us. No matter how hard things are, life can get better. Someday, though it seems like an eternity away, graduation day will come, and life moves on. But that doesn't mean it will be an easy road.

Charlie has experienced incredible heartbreak in his life, and he has suffered through experiences that have changed him forever and are difficult to overcome. He deals with many issues that a lot of teens deal with, but that as parents we hope our own kids will never have to. Charlie takes drugs, unwittingly at first, but then willingly to escape his inner demons. He witnesses tragedy. He has times where he feels completely alone and hopeless, and the movie takes viewers to those places with him. The movie is emotional and disturbing, but it is also motivational, reminding us that each human being has a story to tell and needs someone who will hear it and understand.

The movie contains profanity, including one use of the "f" word. Some scenes in the movie include fighting and other forms of domestic or schoolyard violence. The movie contains sexual content, both hetero and homosexual, including making out and kissing as well as discussions about sex and some racy costumes. The heavy content in the movie reflects that of the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which the movie is based on, a book which has been both banned from some schools and taught in other schools. Stephen Chbosky wrote the book and wrote and directed the movie, and he has said the the story is in many ways autobiographical. For some kids, this movie or the book could be a hopeful though difficult message enveloped within a story they are familiar with. While for others, the story could be a shocking, unfamiliar and sad look at what life is like for some teens.

Most everyone can relate to Charlie's experiences in some form or other, but the movie could be difficult and disturbing to watch for some teens. I recommend families discuss the movie and the major themes that come out through Charlie's difficult experience. Talk about how Charlie has overcome his challenges, and what kind of help he needed to do so. Also discuss how we can reach out to others who may be going through similarly difficult situations that we may not know about. The movie could provide a wonderful opportunity for teens to confide in their parents and work through any issues they have, whether small and seemingly insignificant or weighty and overwhelming. If you have concerns about your teen and the content of this movie, definitely preview the movie or read the book first, as the movie contains material that could be offensive or thematic material that could be disturbing or confusing for teens.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Content Overview

*May contain spoilers.

  • Violence (Medium): The movie contains some violence such as fights at school, one of which is fairly brutal. A boyfriend hits his girlfriend. A boy is seen with bruises and it is revealed that he was beaten by his father. Some scenes discuss and flash back to a fatal car accident (no blood or gore is shown).
  • Scary Scenes (Low): Some of the content listed under "violence" could be scary to kids. A scene in which a boy may be trying to take his own life and scenes of the boy experiences mental anguish could be frightening or disturbing.
  • Sex/Nudity (High): The movie shows teens making out and kissing, at times taking off some clothing, but nothing explicit is shown. Two boys are shown kissing in some scenes. Sex is discussed, including references to past mistakes, past sexual abuse and sleeping around. One character's memories hint at past sexual abuse, but nothing explicit is shown. The Rocky Horror Show performances involve boys and girls wearing women's lingerie and taking part in sexy scenes with racy lyrics.
  • Drugs and Alcohol (Extreme) Teens take different kinds of drugs including LSD, drink alcohol and smoke at parties and other places. One teen ends up in the hospital after taking drugs and lies about it later.
  • Language (High): The movie contains 1 use of the "f" word as well as several uses of the "s" word and words like "damn" and "hell." The phrase "My God" or variations are used several times. Derogatory terms like "faggot" are used as well as slang sexual terms.
  • Disrespectful/Imitative Behavior (Extreme): Along with doing drugs, drinking and having sex (not shown explicitly), teens engage in behavior such as fighting, standing up in the back of a moving pickup, and playing truth or dare. Other behaviors, such as sleeping around and shoplifting, are discussed but not shown.

  • Sad/Unsettling Scenes (Extreme): Many tense and possibly unsettling, sad or disturbing scenes arise due to Charlie dealing with his family, his past issues about abuse and his best friend's suicide, and problems with his friends or at school or parties. Charlie experiences devastating feelings of solitude and hopelessness. Difficult situations regarding abuse, bad relationships, problems with parents or other family members and more are discussed and affect many of the characters.
  • Movie Topics Kids Might Have Questions About: abuse (mental, physical and sexual), sexuality and homosexuality, drug and alcohol use, mental hospitals and psychiatric care, popularity and not fitting in, repression of terrible events or memories
Disclosure: The studio provided a free screening of this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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