THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER is one of my favorite young adult books, so you can imagine my dread/excitement when I first heard that the novel was being made into a movie. Would Hollywood turn Charlie into a hapless Judd Apatow-style nerd? Could Sam ever be as impossibly cool as she seems in the book? Would the sheer poetry of the writing survive a transplant on to the silver screen?
Well, my fellow life participators, you can breathe easy, because with author Stephen Chbosky at the helm, this film is a gorgeous, wildly compelling tribute to the novel we all adore and cherish. Allow me to prove to you, with scientific precision, why this movie does justice to its source material, and why you need to head to a theater and see it IMMEDIATELY.
First, a brief introduction to the book/film's premise:
Charlie is, in a word, special. (And I don't mean that in a mentally handicapped way, although there is something delightfully off about his brain.) In letters to a "Dear Friend," Charlie chronicles his life as a high school freshman, transforming the mundane into the miraculous with heartbreaking honesty and whimsical charm. He begins the school year friendless and alone thanks to the suicide of his bestie, Michael, the year before and the graduation of his older brother. Charlie is determined to make a fresh start and escape the sadness that has threatened to consume him ever since the death of his beloved Aunt Helen. Luckily, he meets Patrick and Sam, a dynamic duo that usher him into a swirling, electric world of new experiences, a magical mayhem bursting with possibilities, happiness and, most importantly, participation.
Since we know that Stephen Chbosky's got the writing and directing covered, the next pivotal step of making a good adaptation is, of course, the casting. And Chbosky definitely hit the thespian jackpot. Logan Lerman is the PERFECT Charlie. He's weird and awkward without being cartoonish, and his eyes... HIS SWEET SWEET EYES. Honestly, I was blown away by Lerman's acting in this film, from his emotional devastation to his hilarious comedic timing, and he looks damn good in a suit to boot. Charlie is one of the most complex and wonderful characters in YA history, and Lerman captured him with respect and passion.
And then there's Emma Watson, a.k.a. Hermione! Yeah, I realize that Emma is trying to expand beyond her Harry Potter past, but it is literally impossible for me to separate my affection for that frizzy-haired wizard from the actress herself. BUT! She really is a different character in this film, and her emotional range is impressive. She sparkles with life and a hint of wildness, and it's easy to see why Charlie is drawn to her light.
But it's Ezra Miller and Mae Whitman that really steal the spotlight in this movie. As Patrick, Ezra is ridiculous and dramatic and manic and absolutely charming. He deserves major props for balancing the eccentricity of Patrick with his dark emotional turmoil, resulting in a real teenager instead of the "sassy gay friend." But my favorite actor in the film, hands down, is Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth. She's snarky and pretentious and GOD I am totally obsessed with her. Like, I'm seriously thinking about dressing up as her for Halloween. And also for THE REST OF MY LIFE.
The icing on this cake of this film is definitely the soundtrack. We've got the Smiths, Cocteau Twins, New Order, Sonic Youth, David Bowie... I mean, you feel legit just reading that list, don't you? It's a musical extravaganza of angst, and each song spreads through your veins and reminds you of what it feels like to be a confused, wide-eyed teenager.
Given Charlie's unique voice in the book, and the way it feels as a reader to be inside of his head, it is impossible for this film adaptation to be exactly as amazing as its source material. But y'all, this movie gets really, really close. The script, along with the excellent casting, truly captures everything I love about this story-- the intense pain and beauty of growing up-- and sends it washing over you in rousing waves of whimsicality and sadness.
And even if you haven't read the book, I guarantee that this movie will immediately jump to your list of classics. This is the kind of film that makes you laugh and makes you cry and, most importantly, makes you feel infinite. And it's ideal for a slumber party setting, because you're gonna want to group hug afterwards. Trust.