The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writer: Stephen Chbosky
Based On: “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Novel) By: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Nina Dobrev
Country: United States
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Time: 102 minutes
Genre: Drama, Romance
USA Release: 9/14/2012 (Limited)
On DVD (USA): 2/12/2013
While most authors whose books get made in to films often just write the screenplay and or become a producer, Stephen Chbosky has done a little bit more by directing his own work. Although some may see it as a disadvantage, his lack of directing skills (since this makes only his second directing effort), I’ve always heard it said that writers can make good directors because they already see what it should look like in their heads. Therefor Chbosky should have no problem transitioning his book from the page to the screen, since he knows his characters so well.
Like every kid entering high school, Charlie (Logan Lerman) is nervous. He is a rather quiet kid and on his first day of school would just like to make one friend. But the only connection he makes is with his English teacher, Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd), which he finds very sad. However it’s not long before Charlie meets and eventually befriends two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) who he first meets at one of his school’s football games. Soon Sam and Patrick introduce Charlie to their friends which are all also seniors, making Charlie the youngest of the group. That however doesn’t stop Charlie from experiencing everything being a teenager has to offer such as parties, music, girlfriends, crushes, drugs, alcohol, love, sex and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. But while all of this is going on, there is some sense of Charlie that is still struggling, and while he tries to keep it hidden, dealing with it himself, he is slowly breaking down.
Like with most book to film adaptations, I tend to try and read the book so that I get a better understanding of what the author might have been trying to get across, incase it doesn’t in the film version. Some people might say doing that ruins the surprises that the film has to offer and walking in to see it, you already have an opinion of the story, somewhat. Anyway, I guess I picked a good time to read the book, having read it around May/June, it gave me enough space that the story wasn’t completely fresh in my mind and I think that helped me grab onto the story so emotionally again just as I did when I first read the book.
Although this story takes place in the early 90’s, it’s a universal story that could fit any decade, the only different would be the clothes and technology. And just as it was in the book, it’s entirely relatable, even if some of the things told didn’t necessarily happen to you, you feel a connection with the characters, like your there with them and know them. Stephen Chbosky’s adaption of his own book (his first book to be exact) is without a doubt, beautiful, just like the book itself. He captures the same fear and isolation that Charlie goes through in the beginning, giving sublet change showing his character growing and fitting in with a group of people, something he longs for on his first day of school. It’s an extremely touching story of growing up and finding a group that lets you proudly be yourself. And to be honest cried a lot, and I wasn’t surprised that I did since the book also made me cry. The way it flows smoothly like a good pop song and it’s honesty and insightfulness, you have to be pretty hardened to not feel anything. This is the first film this year to really touch me and make me downright cry.
Moving on, it’s rare to see an author direct his own book, most of the time, it’s left to more experienced directors. But in the case of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, it was the perfect move to have Chbosky write and direct. Like I said earlier, writers already have a mental picture of the story in their minds so, they know exactly how they would want to film it. While Chbosky may have had little experience as a director (having directed his first and only other film seventeen years ago) you would never guess it, as it’s film in such a gorgeous manor that you could mistake it with any of the top directors working today. No one else could have captured the film so well more than the writer himself, this is the way all adaptations should be done or as close to this as possible.
Some are calling this “The Breakfast Club” of this generation, and while that may be true on some levels, I feel that both deserve their own category, although “The Breakfast Club” is the closest film to compare to “The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Yes, they deal with the pressures of being a teenager, and showing how that can profoundly effect you. But while one only shows a group discussing and dealing with their issues in one day, starting out strangers and become friends, the other shows the struggles of one lone teenager trying to deal with things himself while trying to fit in. Both deal with big issues and never try to side step or tip toe across the subject, except when it comes to very sensitive subjects, and what “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” accomplishes is letting you get there at the same pace as Charlie himself, which makes the event more personal, which can pretty much sum up “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, with it being taken from one lone persons view, it makes everything feel more personal to you.
Another thing that is a big part in the success of this film, beside the brilliant writing and directing, are the performances give by the cast. For the most part, much of the cast here have small supporting roles that only give them a few scenes to be in. And although I don’t really need to go in to each individual performance, I can at least say this. The crowd that Charlie is introduced to through Sam and Patrick are wonderfully people that may be like people you know or once knew. They are all of the artistic, creative background and are all very alike and different in their own way, and they encourage being yourself and being different. And of that they introduce Charlie into many new things, some good, some not so.
Of the adults in Charlie’s life, we don’t really get a clear picture of them, especially his parents, but I mean how many teenager really understand their parents anyway. The same can also be said about older his brother and sister, but again the thought answers itself. But we do see him connecting more with his sister than anyone else in his family, as he learns about relationships through her and her boyfriend. And we watch as Charlie still struggles with the loss of his favorite person, Aunt Helen. But the biggest influence in his life during that first year in high school is his English teacher, Mr. Anderson. He gives Charlie extra assignments and extra books to read to help encourage him that he is smarter than he thinks he is and that he would make a great writer. But my point with talking about all of the people within Charlie’s life is that, all of the actors and actresses give wonderful, heartfelt performances, even if they are rather small when you think about it in the end.
That’s OK though, because it’s more about the three leads anyway and they all give marvelous, funny, and deeply felt performances. Ezra Miller who plays Sam’s stepbrother Patrick, give a fantastic performance. He steals every scene he’s in with his character broad personality and complete likability. Like Charlie, we watch Patrick deal with problems that come his way, like bullying, not only because he is different but sadly because he is gay. Although his character in the beginning is a light, always laughing kind of guy, we see as he heads down a dangerous road much like Charlie does, with depression. Although Miller’s breakout role was in “We Need To Talk About Kevin”, this role maybe a more mainstream breakout for him, and a much deserved one at that.
As for Emma Watson who plays Sam, she also give a wonderful performance. She is breaking out of her shell and showing audiences that she is much more than Hermione Granger. And although that will forever be a beloved character that is part of her career, it’s nice to see her trying different roles. Seeing “Ballet Shoes” while she was still filming the “Harry Potter” films showed me she had much more to offer the world of acting and filmmaking, and I will continue to look forward to all of the different roles she tries. Anyway, her character is like the rest of the bunch, different and not afraid to wear her individuality on her sleeve (much like the rest of them). In the film we see heartbreak, recovery and wanting to feel free through her and Watson does a wonderful job at that and tugging at our heartstrings.
And then there is Charlie himself played by Logan Lerman. Lerman who I always find a joy to watch, gives his best performance to date (much like Watson). Through Charlie, we see many things happening, the yearning to make just one friend, dealing with fitting in, finding friends who except him for who he is and the struggles of dealing with loss. Lerman’s roles asks for many different emotions and Lerman hits it out of the park for portraying those emotions and getting the audience to really connect to him. He makes Charlie a person you might not know but after the film, you feel as if you were right there beside him the whole time. Then there is the tender chemistry between Watson and Lerman, and although it’s mixed and a bit more one sided at times because of the characters, the two of them show a spark every time they were in a scene together. And throughout the film you will find yourself heartbroken for Charlie but still rooting for them at the same time.
Overall, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” proves to be just as brilliant on screen as it was on paper. While it not only embodies the feelings and experiences teenagers go through during high school, it totally makes you feel like your right there with them. Chbosky has done an amazing job bringing his book to the big screen with strong writing and a fantastic group of actors and actresses that give some extremely strong performances. While this may not get seen by everyone, it’s definitely one to seek out when it comes to DVD/Blu-ray. It’s one of my favorites of this year and I highly recommend it to anyone that may have been or is a wallflower.