‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’: The Rare Case Where the Movie Actually Does Live Up to the Book
What’s the best way to ensure that your book gets a decent big-screen adaptation? Direct the film yourself. That’s how writer/director Stephen Chbosky guaranteed that the film version of his beloved 1999 novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower would be worthy of the book. And while Chbosky did an excellent job directing the film, most of its brilliance comes from his writing. Perks is a poignant story about an awkward high school freshman who comes out of his shell when he meets two gregarious seniors. As a huge fan of the book, I was prepared to like the movie, but I was completely blown away by how much it surpassed my expectations.
I think the tipping point for me was the acting, which was unbelievable. Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & the Olympians) literally took my breath away (there was a lot of gasping, and some sobbing) as Charlie, the troubled narrator trying to deal with the guilt of his aunt’s death and the challenges of entering high school. Granted, I’m a little biased because I was already in love with Logan Lerman before I saw Perks, but after that performance, I think he could very well be the next Matt Damon. (And, yes, I realize how clichéd that sounds, but I can’t help that it’s true.) Lerman’s performance is the axis around which the rest of the film rotates, but the rest of the cast certainly holds their own.
As Charlie’s flamboyant friend Patrick, Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) is—at the risk of sounding like an elderly opera critic—a revelation. After seeing The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I immediately went home and added him to my Pinterest board of “Favorite Actors.” (Don’t judge me.) He managed to fill the role of comic relief, while also having some of the most heartbreaking scenes of the entire film. I left the theater desperate to see more of him. Hear that, Hollywood? Cast Ezra Miller in everything.
Emma Watson was fearless as Charlie’s love interest Sam. And I’m not just saying that because she wouldn’t let a stunt double stand in for her to film the scene where she stands in the back of a pickup truck while driving through a tunnel. It says a lot that I didn’t think of Hermione once while I was watching her in this film. Paul Rudd, Melanie Lynskey, and The Vampire Diaries‘ Nina Dobrev round out the cast, with a few other notable names interspersed. The cast has the crucial chemistry needed to portray the central relationships between the characters, and there’s not a weak link in the bunch. Perks manages to capture the humor, the intensity, and the sheer beauty of the original story. It’s as breathtaking on the screen as it was on the page, thanks to the combined genius of Chbosky and the amazing cast. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I highly recommend you do both (in that order) right now. You’ll be the better for it. But you’ll also be the weepier for it. (Bring tissues just to be safe.)