I wasn’t looking forward to this. I’ve always disliked Emma Watson- she comes across as awfully annoying in interviews, and is the worst of the young actors in Harry Potter. Therefore, I was reluctant to watch this pretentious and cheesy-looking teen angst drama, also starring Logan Lerman, who was truly awful in the awful Percy Jackson movie, and Ezra Miller, who apparently was fantastic in We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I haven’t seen. I was also well aware that this was one of those movies that uses cool 80s and 90s music to give itself false credibility.
Surprisingly, Lerman does some decent acting in this film, and is a likeable narrator, especially when we see the tough childhood his character has had. Watson does nothing special and is completely replaceable, but isn’t bad or annoying that she ruins the film. Ezra Miller gives the standout performance, and I will be sure to check out Kevin soon, as he perfectly encapsulates Patrick, the flamboyant step-brother of Watson’s character, who seems to be the only character who hasn’t suffered abuse from an adult, but instead homophobic bullying from his schoolmates. This is a theme that isn’t dealt with enough in teenage films, despite it being one of the most serious issues in schools today, and I was happy to see a major gay character in a film directed at young people (such as Watson and Lerman fans).
The unrealistic naivety of the teenagers is irritating at times, such as when Lerman’s English teacher (played well by Paul Rudd) lends him a copy of Catcher in the Rye, which he had never heard of until that point, and when the three leads get super exited by a ‘new song by an artist they don’t know’, which is Heroes by Bowie. Who, even in the 90s, didn’t know Catcher and Bowie?
The soundtrack is wonderful, with The Smiths and Dexys Midnight Runners playing an important role in the story also. The ending of the film has a suitably mixed tone, considering the varying themes of the film, and you will leave it thinking. This is rare in a modern film directed at teenagers, and I applaud author/writer-director Steven Chbosky for that.