By Daniel PrattEach generation has its staple "young adult" book that's revered and fondly looked back upon as a grown up. What was once To Kill a Mockingbird, Where the Red Fern Grows or Catcher in the Rye is today The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Fans of Perks are a ravenous group. They have sites scattered all over the Internet, in multiple languages, where they share their adoration of the book, as well as their high school experiences with one another. This is why it came as no surprise that fans were abuzz when it was announced that author Stephen Chbosky would be bringing his 1999 bestseller to the big screen.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the coming-of-age story of Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he begins his freshman year of high school. Charlie, a smart and quiet young man that doesn't have any friends, is hopeful that high school will change things and grant him a new lease on social life.
His fortunes are initially rough, until he strikes up a conversation with Patrick (Ezra Miller), an older student in his shop class, later meeting Patrick's stepsister, Sam (Emma Watson), which helps him find his stride and a place to fit in. The story then follows Charlie as he navigates new friendships and experiences the ups-and-downs of being a teenager, all while dealing with some demons of his past.
The original book is a series of personal letters written by Charlie, which could have posed a challenge adapting to film. However, Chbosky incorporates some of the more effective entries as montages and voiceover narration to maintain the sense of intimacy. The deeply personal feelings of Charlie are always front-and-center, recreating the novelistic sense that we're inside his head sharing his experiences.
Aiding this is the vulnerability and awkwardness that Logan Lerman captures wonderfully, much as Emma Watson embodies the free-spirited and quirky Sam with aplomb. The standout performance comes from Ezra Miller, however, capturing our attention from the moment he steps on screen, generating the larger-than-life feeling of the character written in the book.
It's rare that a film adaptation can completely encapsulate a book's essence, yet in this case, Stephen Chbosky does a masterful job with his screenplay and direction. Chbosky had no prior directorial experience, other than an indie film (The Four Corners of Nowhere), but had experience writing the 2005 adaptation of Rent and the TV series Jericho.
While some campy moments of the film may seem reminiscent of John Hughes's classics of the '80s, the performances, thematic continuity and dialogue are sure to elicit smiles and tears.
While fans will undoubtedly flock to this film and will be pleased with the result, those unfamiliar with the story should also find it easily relatable since, at some point in all our lives, haven't we all felt like an outsider on the Island of Misfit Toys? (eOne)