QuickFlick: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
By Caitlyn Rogers
It is customary to have low expectations of film adaptations, even if the literary source was well-received. In the case of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, however, there is a much higher likelihood of audience satisfaction. Chbosky, who wrote the 1999 novel, is also the film’s director and screenplay writer. Needless to say, fans trust Chbosky with the adaptation more than they would have welcomed an outside source writing the script or setting up the film sequence.
Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a lonely, introverted boy beginning his freshman year in high school. Misunderstood by his family, Charlie is left without any sort of confidant when his best friend from middle school commits suicide. Shy and desperate for human interaction, Charlie begins writing anonymously to an undisclosed pen pal. Charlie’s letters, which serve as a form of journaling for the thoughtful and observant wallflower, recount stories of his new friends, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). Paul Rudd is also in the movie, playing Charlie’s Advanced English teacher; Mr. Anderson, Rudd’s character, encourages Charlie’s writing by assigning additional book reports on influential novels.
Lerman may initially seem too attractive to play a bullied outcast, but viewers will be pleasantly surprised to find Lerman portrayed Charlie’s socially awkward, occasionally unstable personality flawlessly. I originally felt similarly unsettled about the casting of Sam and Patrick, but was again relieved and delighted by Watson’s and Miller’s authentic performances. These three main characters were to reveal strong emotions and the actors obliged tears, ruckus laughter and livid outbursts in a seemingly effortless manner. My only complaint is minor: Emma Watson’s American accent is sometimes lacking and too obvious.
The film’s plot was quite faithful to the events in the novel. The Perks of Being a Wallflower audiobook is six hours and 24 minutes long while the film’s runtime is 103 minutes, so there were obviously omissions of content, but Chbosky did a terrific job of infusing the film with the novel’s most pertinent themes, memorable moments and classic dialog.
Audiences unfamiliar with the story should still appreciate the film, as it contains an enjoyable balance of humor, angst and nostalgia. Motifs found in the story include poignant representations of sexual abuse, violence, homophobia and youth rebellion. Other leading elements of the characters and their lives are love, happiness, education, belonging, good music, honesty, and unconventionality.
The soundtrack was neither a let-down nor the best thing the film had to offer. Taking place during the 1991-1992 academic school year, The Perks of Being a Wallflower emphasizes music through the radio and especially in the making of mixed tapes. The conglomerate of song choices did not overshadow the script or cinematography, but instead enhanced moments, revealed the time period and demonstrated characters’ musical tastes. “Asleep” by The Smiths was an obvious choice to include because it is notably Charlie’s favorite song, but it was not overly utilized. A musical addition I personally treasured was Sam and Patrick’s “living room routine” of Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen” at a school dance.
In regards to more technical aspects of the film, it is stylistically beautiful. The imagery is pleasant and the use of montage and flashback are cohesive, subtle and not too overdone. Under two hours long, the coming-of-age tale is detailed without dragging.
Dissimilar to mainstream Hollywood productions, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has an air of truth and philosophic growth; it felt like a real story. Few films have the ability to appeal to numerous demographics, eliciting feelings of widespread reliability; this film succeeds. Charlie is sentimental, emotional and an overall good person with quirky friends. It’s hard not to fall in love with the characters and in turn, be reminded of the people in your own life who you love.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is not currently playing in any theaters around the Flagstaff area, but is definitely worth a viewing when visiting home or otherwise leaving town. For brownie points, read the terrific book that started it all.