It took me a long time to work up the courage to see this film, not because of the content, but because I was terrified that it was going to unabashedly destroy my perception of the book. Call me Obama and let me be clear- The Perks of Being a Wallflower may soon join the ranks of great american novels along with The Catcher In the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird. The book portrays 21st century society through the eyes of a child in a manner both honest and hauntingly resonant. Everyone can relate to it and everyone will be touched in at least some small way. Please, please do yourself a favor and read the book. You will not regret it.
Fine. But what of the film?
Directed by the original author, Steven Chbosky and staring Percy Jackson, Hermione Granger, and a young Keanu Reeves, the film captures the struggles of a standoffish teenager as he deals with sex, drugs, prejudice, love, relationships, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I am glad to say that my reluctance was for naught as Chbosky’s adaptation brilliantly recaptures the spirit of the original and brings this touching story to a new audience. I cannot recall the last time I felt such profound, genuine emotion from a movie, and for that reason Perks is high in the running for my favorite film of the year.
Chbosky’s cinematography is competent yet unremarkable, which perhaps allows for a tighter focus on the story and characters. I did find it interesting, however, that the film’s universe seemed to be an idealized, perhaps even romanticized, depiction of small town America. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the bright colors and clean, crisp use of line and space suggest a cartoonish element, but the apparent lightness of atmosphere contrasts nicely with the sometimes morbid subject matter and keeps the tone from becoming too grim.
Logan Lerman as Charlie and Ezra Miller as Partick both deliver outstanding performances. These young men have bright futures in the industry judging by their ability to infect the audience with authentic emotions which I haven’t seen in film for a long time. Strangely, the supposed heavyweight, Emma Watson, delivers a somewhat stilled performance and seems to be holding something back, perhaps for fear of letting slip her British accent which keen ears might pick up on at certain parts in the film. It’s not as though her performance was bad by any means, but when compared to the knockout performances of Lerman and Miller, she’s a Hershey kiss to their fondue fountain.
Concerning the story, the film is similar to the novel, intricately incorporating multiple story lines as seen from Charlie’s perspective. However, I did want to see a more in-depth view of the Charlie’s family dynamics and the consequences of certain events. For instance, the novel portrays Charlie’s father as a much more emotional and fragile man than how he appears in the film. As such, Charlie’s relationship with his parents is almost completely omitted. Likewise, the interactions between Charlie’s immediate family and his extended family could have been further explored and would have provided more context into Charlie’s shyness.
The only real qualm I have about the film is that it’s charm and meaning may not bridge the generational gap between us millennials and our parents, for the simple reason that they may not have the same perception of high school and of American society as we do. Then again, it’s not really for them; it’s for us. The novel, and naturally the film, was intended to capture a specific place in time where unique struggles and conflicts occur which resonate specifically with our generation.
I you’re like me and are worried that the film will ruin your perception of the novel *cough* Vampire Hunter *cough* rest assured that it will not. If you’re emotional be prepared to cry and if you’re cerebral be prepared to think. You might just find that there’s a little piece of Charlie in you, and when you find it, The Perks of Being a Wallflower will remind you that you’re not alone.
Rating: 4 out of 5