If you go into Wallflower with low expectations you could be pleasantly surprised. It may not be a classic, but neither is it the debacle you might have expected from Emma Watson’s latest feature.
This is true despite Watson’s non-performance; the film features continuous, poignant shots of her quirky hair, and even though these drag, they are at least respite from her awkward vacillation between overacting and forgetting to act altogether.
Director Stephen Chobsky has decided to adapt his own book for the screen; the novel feels like an attempt at a cult classic, in the Catcher In the Rye mould, but with the addition of the Smiths and a focus on child abuse. The film is a fairly close adaptation, as you would expect from a book adapted by its own author, but the central plot has changed somewhat. While the original revolved around Charlie’s emotional recovery from an abusive childhood, this has unfortunately metamorphosed into an Emma Watson love story.
The love story itself is rather oddly done: that it should climax with a fifteen year old child abuse victim sleeping with a girl a number of years his senior is less touching, and slightly creepier, than the director probably envisaged. Watson’s gormless presence on screen hardly helps to diffuse the awkwardness.
Thankfully, the film is held up by Ezra Miller’s strong performance as Charlie’s gay friend, and Watson’s step-brother. Miller, who starred in We Need To Talk About Kevin, is at the centre of one of the film’s key subplots, and his storyline, focusing on his relationship with a jock too afraid to come out, is both subtle and moving, making it arguably the best thing about the movie. Alas, the alternative adolescents that litter the rest of the film might as well have been lifted straight from the ‘status quo’ number of High School Musical.
Wallflower was uplifting in all the ways a high school story usually is, but sadly had little more to offer. Perhaps Chobsky ought to have stuck to his novels, and Watson to her studies.