The Ezra Miller movie you shouldn’t miss

Summit+Entertainment

Summit Entertainment

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

Long before he signed on to play Flash, aka Barry Allen in the DC movie universe, Ezra Miller stole the screen in a 2012 drama called “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote the book and also directed the recent “Dear Evan Hansen” movie, “Wallflower” represented Miller’s biggest role yet cinematically in Hollywood at the time.

Nine years later, it still stands as his best work. With Miller turning 29 years old Thursday, it’s a good time to revisit a quiet gem that didn’t exactly fly under the radar upon release but may have been lost on a few movie minds.

The film, which also starred Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, centered around the deep friendship between a shy freshman (Lerman) and the two savvy seniors (Miller and Watson) who take him under their wing. Chbosky’s script snuck up on viewers with its depth, pushing off from the shallow side of the end-of-innocence teenage wasteland over into the deep end of trauma recovery and homophobia.

Miller’s Patrick is the class clown who also happens to be gay, something that brings bullies and hate his way. He doesn’t wish for the perpetrators to see his internal agony, so he deflects their shameful comments with humor. Miller is at his best during these scenes because the audience can clearly see what he is dealing with, but his crackerjack joker expression is the temporary medicine that works.

The friendship between the three deepens as the film progresses, and certain truths are revealed–things that could break them apart. Thankfully, one of Chbosky’s greatest decisions here is to allow a romantic flirtation between two young people to be awkward and messy without sacrificing any of its warmth and honesty. And there’s also a numb toughness to the far more dramatic sequences, such as a cafeteria fight after Patrick is mocked and assaulted.

While Lerman and Watson turn in terrifically raw performances, Miller stole the film. Playing a character under fire but refusing to show any external pain, he managed to turn a potentially melodramatic role into a highly cerebral one. Funny too. This is where the comedic touch of Miller was front and center, blending with the emotional beats of the story.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” also co-starred Kate Walsh (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Dylan McDermott and Kansas City Chiefs fan Paul Rudd as a teacher who Charlie bonds with over a love of books. Nominated for two Critics Choice Awards, the film was mostly overlooked for national honors, even if it scored well on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic.

Here’s the thing. It’s not just another high school dramedy designed to entertain and self-destruct inside two hours. Chbosky’s film was excellent, far better than it had to be. Ezra Miller was a big reason for that.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is available to watch (with a subscription) on Hulu, Sling TV, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime and Fubo TV. You can also catch Miller in “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on HBO Max and look for his first solo adventure as Allen next year in “The Flash.” That’s where Miller ascended, but it was a “Wallflower” that first allowed his talent to blossom completely.

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