I found “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky during lunch period my freshman year of high school, tucked deep inside the library shelves, where I spent all my lunch periods. I fell in love with the book as soon as I read it, but it slipped out of my life for the next four years. Fast forward to my sophomore year in college, when I heard that the book was being adapted into a movie, and I was inspired to read one of my favorites again.
After a quick stop at Barnes & Noble, 48 hours later, I had finished the book for the second time in my life. This time around, I understood things that I didn’t the first time and found different things resonating with me instead. But this was expected. The first time I read it, I was just beginning high school. This time, I was well out of high school, with one year of college under my belt. Time and experiences gave me a different perspective on this book and made it that much more beautiful. I identified so deeply with the main character that it felt like Chbosky was writing my thoughts onto the page.
Logan Lerman in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” (Courtesy Summit Entertainment, LLC)
The story is narrated by Charlie and is written as a series of letters to an unidentified reader. It is a front row seat to Charlie’s first year of high school. It is made clear early on that Charlie has had some emotional problems in the past and continues to struggle with them. Early in the book, he meets a boy named Patrick and his half-sister Sam who accept him into their group of friends and show him a world he never expected to find. The novel accounts Charlie’s first kiss, first pot brownie, first love and everything else in between.
Watching this movie, I could tell we have come a long way since classic coming-of-age movies like “16 Candles” or even “Mean Girls.” Our films and books are beginning to depict real scenarios that teens now have to face. Even though it adds a heaviness to the film, it makes it so meaningful that you find yourself empathizing with the characters because what they experience feels so real.
The problems of today’s teens don’t so much center on being personally victimized by Regina George or liking Jake Ryan even though you think he doesn’t notice. Those problems are still relevant, but so are issues regarding suicide, drugs, mental problems and molestation, to name a few. “Perks” takes all these issues and weaves them into a story that is quite jarring to read or see on the screen. It is so real and heart-wrenching that the characters come alive, because you probably know a version of them in real life.
This film was perfectly cast. Logan Lerman plays the role of Charlie, and he nailed the awkward, overly-honest yet incredibly adorable essence that is Charlie. Emma Watson makes one of her first film appearances after her “Harry Potter” days and her time of being a normal college kid at Brown University. Her acting is complete with a spiffy, new, American accent, which she owned. Rounding out the trio is Ezra Miller, who plays Patrick. He is not only a source of understanding and advice for Charlie but is also the lovable comic relief throughout the movie.
This film was directed and written by the original book’s author, Stephen Chbosky. One thing that makes this film so unique is that is hardly strays from the book at all. Scenes were taken straight from the page to the screen in a completely watchable fashion that didn’t leave any viewers confused or wishing they had read the book first. There are not many book-to-movie adaptations that can make such a seamless transition without changing many aspects from the book, but somehow Chbosky nails it. Instantly, the audience falls in love with Charlie and his shy quirkiness that had every girl in that theater swooning, including myself.
The only thing that bothered me about the movie was that the dialogue seemed a bit awkward in some places. You could see Watson hesitating a little before saying some lines, probably in an effort to continue using her American accent. Some lines did not flow well into the next, disrupting the cohesion of the movie as a whole. But this small problem was forgettable within a magical movie that accurately portrays real life.
I give this book and this movie all the praise and worship I could give and then some. This painfully honest and realistic story will bring you to tears, both the sad and the happy kind. Even if you haven’t read the book or don’t plan on reading the book, I encourage you to go see this movie, because it is going to change the way movies are made. I know I am already planning on going back to see it again and again.
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is playing now at the Century Theater.
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Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ellie Patterson at Elizabeth.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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