Much as I’d like to bill it as Harry Potter’s real life (minus the drug-induced hallucinations), Perks is a fairly neat fit in the coming-of-age template. Introvert Charlie begins high school friendless, eventually joins a circle of misfits and experiences various facets of teendom. Refreshingly, though, it’s a darker and more real (or honest) affair than what we almost always see in Hollywood and
even especially indie critical darlings. Gone, but for one scene, are the entirely physical bullies – such as those in the poor Chronicle, for example. Instead, Charlie is socially ostracised, something harder to convey cinematically but achieved here.
In fact, the film as a whole is a great deal more visual than one would expect from a writer-director adapting his own novel, and it’s not one without risk or deviation from the well-worn path, punctuated as it is by tiny flashbacks throughout. The movie’s chief failing is that it comes across as a series of events, floating around fairly aimless characters – though this is arguably true to life too. Where they might be further developed they are at least endearing, the cast solid, guiding us through the various dramatic beats and delivering good laughs. It has its shortcomings, but Perks is easily a cut above the standard fare.