There have been very few books that have stuck with me the way Stephen Chbosky’s novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has. I read the book earlier this year and instantly fell in love with both the novel’s protagonist and the beautiful way in which Chbosky told the story. Because of my deep love for the novel, I was very intrigued to see how the 2012 filmadaptation would hold up.
The film was written and directed by Chbosky himself (interestingly enough, John Malkovich is also credited as one of the film’s co-producers), and like the novel, tells the story from the perspective of high school freshman, Charlie (Logan Lerman). The movie begins on Charlie’s first day of school, which he describes in a letter to an anonymous person that he writes to throughout the film. Charlie’s a bit of a social outcast- he doesn’t have any friends in his new school and the only person he connects with is his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd). Eventually, Charlie ends up befriending a senior from his shop class, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his step-sister, Sam (Emma Watson). The film chronicles their friendships and personal lives throughout Charlie’s freshman year, as together they deal with the ups and downs of high school.
The coming-of-age story tackles a variety of topics, ranging everywhere from Charlie’s first love to Patrick’s sexuality and dealing with homophobia, but all are treated smartly and sensitively. As you watch the characters grow and see them deal with the challenges of being a teenager (like Sam’s stresses about getting into her dream college, or the awkward way in which Charlie breaks up with his first girlfriend), you can’t help but relate, because we’ve all been there before or at the very least, knew someone in high school who went through similar situations.
I was really impressed by the acting in the film. Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief, 3:10 to Yuma) is absolutely outstanding as Charlie. His portrayal is extremely endearing, and you’ll want cheer him on, or feel for him as he goes through some of the tougher moments in the film. Ezra Miller (Californication, We Need to Talk About Kevin) is also convincing as Patrick; he’s affable and charming and plays the flamboyant character perfectly- never going too over the top in a role that would be easy to overact. The film is Emma Watson’s (Harry Potter series, My Week with Marilyn) first big post-Potter role and it’s good to see her break out of the “Hermione” typecast- she’s no longer the straight-laced bookworm we’ve come to think of her as. It was good to see Watson in another role, and she’s as captivating as her male counterparts. It was also interesting to see how Watson (who is British) handled an American accent. She mostly does it well, though a few times she seemed to slip into the stereotypical American accent that you hear a lot of non-Americans imitate; she sometimes had an odd southern/country twang, despite the film being set in Pennsylvania. It was also nice to see Paul Rudd (I Love You Man, This is 40) playing a non-comedic role, and he was appropriately sweet and caring as Charlie’s teacher. Supporting actress, Mae Whitman (Arrested Development, Parenthood) was also notable as Charlie’s quirky girlfriend, Mary Elizabeth.
Likely due to Chbosky’s involvement with the direction, the film stays close true to the novel- I found very little differences, though perhaps the film took on a lighter tone, especially towards the end when a big secret is revealed about Charlie’s past. Though the novel isn’t very long (only 256 pages), I was still impressed with how many details they were able to include in the movie without the film feeling rushed or jam-packed with events. The movie takes place in the early 90’s, though the decade isn’t made terribly apparent, besides a few hairstyles and clothing choices. The filming and cinematography were pretty straight-forward, though I did enjoy the way the flashbacks were worked in during a few pivotal scenes, as well as the hazy/dizzying way the scenes where Charlie was under the influence of drugs were filmed.
Also worth noting is the film’s soundtrack. One of Charlie’s big interests in both the novel and the film is music, and in the book he mentions specific songs and mix tapes numerous times. I was pleased to hear several of Charlie’s favorites played throughout the film, most notably the song Charlie hears on his first night out with Sam and Patrick (David Bowie’s “Heroes”). Perhaps the soundtrack is the best reflection of the time period, as various songs from the 80’s/early 90’s are heard, including selections from The Smiths and Dexy’s Midnight Runners. It was also amusing to see the cast perform a few scenes from the musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which Charlie and his friends perform in at the local theatre.
I really loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower. As a fan of the novel, I was greatly impressed by how true the film adaptation rang, and I felt that the actors (most particularly Logan Lerman, whom I felt stood out amongst the entire cast as the best actor in the film) portrayed their novel counterparts perfectly. The film is emotional and heartfelt, and I found myself laughing at parts, crying at others, and at all times rooting for the main characters. It’s a great film that anyone could enjoy- whether you’re still a teen or not- it’s got a bit of something for everyone.