The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd
Writer & Director: Stephen Chbosky
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
Running Time: 103 minutes
Philippine Release Date:
26 September 2012
Official Movie Synopsis:
A funny and touching coming-of-age story based on the beloved best-selling novel by Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern classic that captures the dizzying highs and crushing lows of growing up. Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a moving tale of love, loss, fear and hope – and the unforgettable friends that help us through life.
Official Movie Trailer
Review In A Nutshell:
The Perks of Being a Wallflower succeeds at providing an up-to-date insight of what it is like to grow up in the 21st century, with less – if not none – of the “emo” factor that often plagues the teens of this generation.
So this is what you meant when you said that you were spent?
And now it’s time to build from the bottom of the pit
Right to the top
Don’t hold back
Packing my bags and giving the academy a rain check
I don’t ever want to let you down
I don’t ever want to leave this town
‘Cause after all
This city never sleeps at night
It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger, but then
I’ll admit, I’m just the same as I was
Now, don’t you understand
That I’m never changing who I am?
An excerpt from It’s Time by Imagining Dragons,
as featured in the movie’s official trailer
This review may contain spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie or read the book, I plead guilty to my sporadic fits of fangirling and maybe even the infinite use of superlatives along the way. 🙂
As I continue my blog post onslaught (I’m really serious about this), I will pinch myself if I do not share my thoughts about the adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, one of my most anticipated movies in 2012. The book was one of my highest rated books in my 2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge at 4 out of 5 stars thus my eagerness to watch it was just expected. However, when I saw its trailer, I developed some apprehensions but I still decided to see it in the cinema. I saw it the night before I left for Singapore on a business trip with Meann, who also read the book and is a fan of Logan Lerman. Unfortunately, she also shared similar apprehensions as we entered the cinema. After almost two hours and several fat tears escaping both our eyes, suffice to say the movie won us over enough to suspend our apprehensions, even for a little while.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based from the largely popular epistolary novel of the same name. It is told from the perspective of Charlie and begins with him writing about his fears on his transition to high school given a fairly recent traumatic experience wherein he lost his best friend. He felt that the best way for him to survive high school was not to get noticed, which he did, being merely content at the sidelines…. until a student named Patrick, a Senior in his school who was taking his class in order to graduate, started to notice and befriend him. Soon after, Charlie would be introduced into Patrick’s world (of misfit toys) which includes Sam, his lovely but complicated stepsister, among others. As he slowly veers away from the sidelines, Charlie learns the joys and perils of romantic love, rediscovers the value of friendship and strengthens his ties with his family despite having a hard time letting go of a dark, painful past that creeps up in his life every now and then.
Going into the cinema, I had a couple of apprehensions after seeing the promotional materials for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I’m not surprised really; I often find myself in this position when it comes to movie adaptations of books that I love. One of which, although now relatively minor in hindsight, is that the author of the book, Stephen Chbosky, was also the writer and director of the movie adaptation. If there’s anything I’ve learned from movie adaptations of popular book series, authors would naturally be very protective of their work and sometimes would have a creative tug-of-war with the movie production team. However, if the tables were turned and the production was left to the author’s own defenses, it is possible that the finished product may turn out to be just one big fan service to the book’s loyal readers and possibly lose its cinematic potential. To ensure that the adaptation would be successful, it will take a healthy amount of measured restraint on the part of the author-writer-director’s creative juices and I can definitely say Stephen Chbosky doesn’t get a C- in my book. The finished product is not below average; in fact, I’d give it an E or Exceeds Expectations (pardon the Harry Potter reference).
The movie is visually arresting and beautifully written; Stephen Chbosky breathed more life into the book. It was great to see my favorite scenes (feather boas anyone?) and hear its most quotable passages (“We are infinite!”). In addition to this, what I loved the most is that the movie offered answers to some questions that lingered in my head after I read the book. Perhaps the most important for me was that Charlie was sexually abused as a child by his Aunt Helen. Everything fell into place after learning that key detail.
My other apprehension, which bore more weight than the previous one, was the casting of Emma Watson as Sam. I had a clear vision in my head as to who Sam was, despite being characterized from Charlie’s perspective. She somewhat reminds me of Margo Roth Spiegelman (Paper Towns by John Green): the cool girl-next-door who can be as complex and multi-faceted as a roadmap yet can knock any guy off his feet with her quiet but powerful charm. I was envisioning an actress who evokes that young Winona Ryder vibe filling in those shoes so you can imagine my surprise when she was cast. I like Emma Watson, make no mistake, but I always have a problem with how she acts: it feels plain, bland. I have watched all of her non-Potter roles, from Ballet Shoes to My Weekend With Marilyn, and I get the same thing. In the movie’s production notes, however, Stephen offered his thoughts on why he felt Emma was the perfect Sam:
“To me, Sam is the perfect girl. Emma is absolutely luminous in the role. She took it very seriously. It took about five minutes for me to realize that she was the perfect person for the character and the movie. She grew up in the middle of a hurricane, and she did it with such grace and such class, but there is this loneliness about her. I knew when I met her that this was a part of her that was just dying to come out. She just needed permission.”
Well, that was some permission granted. While her British accent would sneak at certain times in the movie, this would probably be Emma’s best performance in my book even if you include all eight (8) Harry Potter movies and that one music video she also starred in. It was refreshing to see her uninhibited, completely devoid of restraint. It took a character like Sam, somebody who was her complete opposite, to make her shine and surprisingly she did. I think it also helped that her castmates were outstanding in their portrayal of their roles; Emma raised her game and met them head on. Although there were still some flat moments, it was hardly noticeable and can be easily ignored. I hope that whatever she learned in this movie, she’ll take it in her future roles. I’d like to see more of this from Emma as she forges her career past the Harry Potter franchise.
Speaking of Emma’s fellow castmates, I don’t know what to say about them without sounding like a giddy fangirl. But one thing’s for sure: Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller were bloody brilliant as Charlie and Patrick respectively. Their performances were outstanding, on point and absolutely palpable. I attribute all the tears I shed in the cinema to those two. I don’t think I’ll ever read the book again without visualizing them in my head. They were that fantastic. I was also equally surprised with the secondary actors, most specifically Nina Dobrev and Mae Whitman; while it was hard for me to separate them from their other roles, I loved that they were able to portray Candace and Mary Elizabeth well. And is it just me, or I find Charlie’s mom and dad (played by Kate Walsh and Dylan McDermott) a tad too gorgeous for my liking? Not that I’m complaining. And Paul Rudd as Charlie’s English teacher is equally awesome.
What also made the book special is how music was such an influence in Charlie’s life and I loved that Alexandra Patsavas was the movie’s music supervisor. She has such a good sense of which songs feel appropriate for the movie and it showed in the finished product. The soundtrack has a rock/indie/alternative vibe and it definitely speaks of the musical preference of the three main characters. The movie’s soundtrack is definitely a must-buy.
I have seen a lot of coming-of-age movies for as long as I can remember and each had its own take on the subject; some succeeded, some failed. The Perks of Being a Wallflower succeeds at providing an up-to-date insight of what it is like to grow up in the 21st century, with less – if not none – of the “emo” factor that often plagues the teens of this generation.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Read the book. Watch the movie. Then re-read the book and get a DVD when it’s released. Never forget to pull it out once in a while if you need to be reminded of the good (and bad) times you have shared with your friends and family, and remember that there’s a lot of love beneath all of it.