As someone who was in college when Napster happened, I'd love to see a period piece re-creating teen life during the last moments before technology began to change media consumption, communication, and the whole of social ritual. I wish Perks, written and directed by Stephen Chbosky from his 1999 young-adult novel, was it. Set in 1991, the film is an incidental time capsule of a pre-Internet adolescence spent discovering the Smiths via mixtapes, when suburban teens realistically could get their first taste of gender subversion via a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But period particulars seem secondary on Chbosky's priorities list. Charlie (Logan Lerman), a shy-fox 14-year-old with a history of depression, makes it through his freshman year by clinging to the alterna-clique spearheaded by Edie-esque Sam (Emma Watson) and her swish stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller). Charlie loves Sam, who is sorta spoken for by a boho college douche, so instead he dates her overbearing friend (Mae Whitman). Chbosky plays this CW-serial stuff for maximum earnestness, stressing the teenage tendency to assume that every new thing they're feeling is unprecedented in human history, keeping the tone just-moist-eyed throughout. And then comes the plot twist, which recasts the film's plaintive portrait of Charlie's free-floating anxiety and sexual weirdness as Not His Fault. Good for him; what about the rest of us?
Troubled teens Lerman and Watson.
Opens Fri., Sept. 28 at Harvard Exit and other theaters. Rated PG-13. 103 minutes.