I love this genre of movies, the coming-of-age or the summer/year/vacation/whatever that changed your life. A few months ago I caught up to The Way Way Back, which was terrific and immediately went on my list of favorites of the genre. Now I've caught up to this movie and it goes right alongside as a favorite too.
Charlie is an incoming freshman at a Pittsburgh, PA high school. Shy, awkward, and with a history of mental illness. Charlie finds it hard to make friends. English teacher Mr. Anderson (an extremely warm and mentor-y Paul Rudd) asks questions to the class with no response, but sees Charlie writing down the answers in his notebook, even as he steadfastly refuses to draw attention to himself by raising his hand. Mr. Anderson, instead of pushing the kid to speak up, instead takes him under his wing by giving Charlie all the books that will change his life. Charlie also begins to grow when he has just enough courage to reach out to befriend Patrick, and thereby introducing himself to the beautiful Sam, Patrick's step-sister and the rest of their motley crew of friends. Or, as Sam tells Charlie when they're at their first party "Welcome to the island of misfit toys."
Emma Watson is luminous as Sam, I didn't question the accent for a minute, and although she's pretty, she's not too pretty to believe the character as being a real high school kid. Ezra Miller is tremendous as Patrick, being conflicted and extroverted and (as the movie states) trying to numb himself from all the pain he's feeling. And Logan Lerman, who I don't think I'd seen in anything before, was really good as Charlie, our "crazy" hero. They felt like real friends on the screen and it was a great feeling to watch.
I was surprised by how cinematic I thought it was, since it was directed by the novel's author, Stephen Chbosky, but it made more sense when I found out he'd gone to film school and graduated as a screenwriter before his career as a writer in print. The book is apparently told through a series of letters from Charlie to an unknown person, and I liked the way Chbosky adapted that to the screen, using that device as a narration to let us into Charlie's head.
A wonderful movie all around and one that I'm sure I'll watch again soon.