This movie is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s. The ‘wallflower’ is Charlie (Logan Lerman), an introverted teenager who is nervous about starting his freshman year at Mill Grove High School. He has been quite disturbed, partly because his best friend, Michael, committed suicide several months earlier, but also for other reasons. He starts writing letters to an anonymous person. He tells this person that the only family member to whom he was close was his Aunt Helen, who died in a car accident when he was seven. He blames himself for this accident.
Charlie spends his first few days at high school sitting alone but is eventually befriended by Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller), both seniors at school. Sam and Patrick soon introduce Charlie to their world of parties, alcohol, drugs and sex. There he meets Mary Elizabeth (Mae Whitman). She wants to be his girlfriend, but Charlie is in love with Sam.
Charlie learns a lot about life during his first year at high school. But at the end of the year, he realises that all of his friends will be leaving and he’ll be alone again. This causes him to go into a tailspin. He almost attempts suicide himself but is saved by his quick-thinking sister Candace (Nina Dobrey), who sends the police around. Charlie ends up under the care of a psychiatrist who helps get him back on track.
Here we outline any topics, issues and ideas in this movie that might upset children and adolescents, so that you can gauge whether it is appropriate for your child. For example, children and adolescents may react adversely to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, separation from a parent, animal cruelty or distress, children as victims, natural disasters and racism.
Sex and sexuality; suicide; coming of age; child sexual abuse
Here we identify any violence in this movie, and explain how and why it might impact on your child or adolescent. In general, movie violence can make children less sensitive to the use of violence in real life. Alternatively, they may become fearful about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world. In some contexts, it can also teach them to see violence as an acceptable means of conflict resolution.
This movie has some violence. For example:
- Candace and her boyfriend have a fight. He hits her across the face.
- Patrick tells how Brad’s father catches him and Brad having sex. Brad’s father badly beats Brad. Brad comes to school the next day at school with a badly beaten and bruised face.
- One of Brad’s friends trips Patrick up, and Brad calls him a faggot.
- Patrick hits Brad then a fight breaks out. All of Brad’s friends start beating Patrick up.
- Charlie comes to Patrick’s rescue and knocks the other guys out.
Content that may disturb children
Children in this age group are likely to be scared by the violent scenes mentioned above.
Children in this age group might be disturbed by some aspects of this movie. For example:
- Charlie tells how his best friend, Michael, shot himself in the head.
- Charlie gets very upset and starts telling Candace how he thinks he’s to blame for his aunt’s death. He thinks he might have willed her to die. Charlie runs into the kitchen where there is a large knife, but the police arrive just in time. Charlie is admitted to a psychiatric unit where a nurse talks to him about his problems. This is quite a disturbing scene.
Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above. They might also be disturbed by a girl called Alice, who steals jeans.
Younger children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by some scenes, particularly those involving the suicide attempt and discussion of suicide.
This movie has a lot of sexual references. For example:
- Girls talk about giving boys oral sex.
- Brad’s father thinks homosexuality is evil.
- Sam’s first kiss was when she was 11, and it was with her father’s boss. After that she got a bad reputation at school.
- Patrick dresses as a drag queen and dances provocatively in a scene from The Rocky Horror Show.
- Patrick tells Charlie about a couple who had sex but didn’t have any condoms, so they used plastic sandwich bags instead.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
This movie shows some use of substances. For example:
- Characters drink alcohol at various social events, parties and so on.
- Charlie gets stoned at a party after eating a brownie, which he naively thinks is just a cake.
- Sam says that she likes crack.
- Charlie takes LSD at a party and is found asleep in the snow the next morning by the police.
- Charlie and Mary Elizabeth open an expensive bottle of her father’s wine to drink.
Nudity and sexual activity
This movie has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Patrick kisses Charlie.
- Charlie walks in on Patrick and Brad kissing.
- Mary Elizabeth wants to have sex with Charlie and starts to undress. She gets him to touch her breasts, but they are interrupted by her parents coming home early.
- Sam and Charlie kiss. She starts to rub his leg, which brings back memories of when he was young. It’s revealed that his Aunt Helen sexually abused him as a child. Charlie stays the night with Sam.
None of concern
This movie has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a coming-of-age drama based on a novel written by Stephen Chbosky. It covers many issues that teenagers face while growing up. Charlie, however, has more serious issues than most, because he was molested as a child and his best friend has recently committed suicide. Because of its exploration of these issues, the movie isn’t recommended for young teenagers. It’s more suitable for more mature teenagers and young adults.
The main messages from this movie are about the complexities of growing up. It shows the teenage years as a confusing time but also a time when young people find their true inner selves.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include loyalty to friends, inclusivity and honesty.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about:
- the effects of drinking too much alcohol and taking drugs
- the reasons that Charlie feels alienated from his parents and unable to talk to them about his problems.