Sometimes when you find yourself completely immersed in a book, you dread it coming to an end. The last page getting ever closer and you don’t know what you’ll do once its over. So then when you hear its being turned into a movie, it’s often quite exciting to know that you’ll be able to once more immerse yourself in that world; you just have to hope that the filmmakers will do it justice.
Such was the situation I found myself in as I read Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. I couldn’t put the book down (which you can read about on our Books page), and it was over in a day. Luckily for me though, I knew that soon it would be coming out as a movie. In fact, that was why I had decided to read it in the first place. Nevertheless, there was still that question in my mind; “Will it be as good as the book?”
The simple answer? Yes.
Of course there are a few major differences in the film adaptation to the book, but in a nutshell it’s one of the best translations from page to screen that I have ever seen.
The film starts Logan Lerman (Gamer, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) as Charlie, a fifteen-year-old high school freshman who is struggling to fit in. With no friends at his new school and a family that he feels he can’t talk to, Charlie throws himself headfirst into writing letters to an anonymous stranger to whom he only refers to as ‘Dear Friend’.
When Charlie meets Patrick (Ezra Miller; We Need to Talk About Kevin) he finally finds himself with the friend he’s been waiting to make. Patrick introduces Charlie to his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson; Harry Potter) who he, of course, falls in love wth. With his newfound friends, Charlie finally finds himself able to ‘participate’ in life and is introduced to a world of parties, drugs, Rocky Horror and teenage relationships. Things don’t just end well for Charlie, however, and it’s not long before he finds himself struggling with blackouts and his past comes back to haunt him.
The book is written as a series of letters which doesn’t easily translate to film, and so I was prematurely worried about the story losing a lot of its meaning and importance. With author Stephen Chbosky both writing and directing though, Charlie is in safe hands. The film opens with Charlie writing his first letter, with a voiceover from Lerman, but the importance and significance of these letters is not made clear, yet somehow, it still works.
Lerman is brilliant in the role of Charlie, with him really stepping up his acting skills to portray each complicated and fragile layer of the character. Charlie is quiet and awkward, attributes we rarely see in Lerman’s characters, but he pulls it off spectacularly. He’s just the right balance of socially inept and adorable.
Watson as Sam is similarly brilliant in her role. While Sam is less of a complicated character than Charlie, the challenge really lies in Watson stepping away from the Harry Potter franchise that she has been associated with for the last ten years and making her mark as a much more versatile actress. And of course, mastering an American accent. Her performance is definitely a great start to people seeing her as more than just Hermione Granger and her chemistry with co-star Lerman is believable.
While a number of things are missed out from the film, such as Charlie’s sister’s abortion, all of the important parts and memorable quotes are packed into 100 minutes of touching, teenage drama. The real worry for me was that the reason Charlie is how he is would be detracted from and difficult for audiences who hadn’t read the book to understand. With the use of flashbacks and subtle hinting from extracts of Charlie’s letters the reveal, which I won’t ruin, gets across and really hits home (I swear the girl sat behind me cried throughout!).
In no way is Perks the best movie I have ever seen, and I doubt a lot of people will say it is unless they are a huge fan of the book, but it simply works. A lot of films have been made of books in the recent decade, but the difference is that Perks isn’t your action-filled Lord of the Rings, yet the best has been done with the source material given. All I can say is I’m glad it was Chbosky who decided to take things into his own hands with his story.