This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.
I listened to the audio of The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and while I liked it and appreciated how it could resonate with so many people, it was merely a B+ for me. This probably has less to do with the actual book than my tendency to not really connect as much when I listen to an audio. Regardless, I wanted to see the movie, probably more to check out how
Hermione Emma Watson did as the worldly object of protagonist Charlie’s desire.
Logan Lerman as Charlie is an understated genuis. Charlie is a high school freshman whose best friend has killed himself months before. Charlie spent the summer in a mental institution and is very very (very) socially awkward (I think these days he would probably be diagnosed with some kind of personality disorder). He befriends this senior Patrick, and his step-sister Sam and, along with his new English teacher Mr. Anderson (who encourages Charlie to read and become a writer) begins a journey to self-discovery that ultimately ends in him remembering things that he’d buried, but also learning to accept himself. Charlie may be part of the most beautiful family in the world (Dylan McDermott was hilarious a Charlie’s uncommunicative dad, Mom was a very subtle Kate Walsh, and if there is ever any proof that 1980’s clothes will make anyone look dumpy, it is Nina Dobrev as Charlie’s sister Candace). Logan is a very good looking guy (who, even though he’s 20, still looks like he’s 16, HE DOES NOT AGE), but I think I pictured Charlie as someone who could kind of blend into the background. Logan manages to really convey a broken quality, someone uncomfortable and ill at ease in his own skin. When he says “I don’t think anyone noticed me,” you believe it. Logan looks like the kind of kid that would have been one of the most popular in my school, he looks like he oozes charisma and self-confidence, but he manages to embody Charlie’s awkwardness and express a lost but determined look that makes Charlie so magnetic to Patrick and Sam.
Ezra Miller plays Patrick, the senior friend who finally accepts Charlie for himself. Ezra is entirely not how I pictured Patrick in my head, but I think he was born to play this part, he was so perfect. And he is one of the most physically beautiful people I’ve ever seen (he looks like the lovechild of Keanu Reeves and Vanessa Marcil, a coupling I could wholeheartedly get behind). Despite that, Ezra was Patrick. He was silly and smart and playful, which I guess I must have missed in the reading. But he was also sympathetic and played really well off both Emma and Logan. The three of them really made the movie believable.
Sam, the girl of Charlie’s dreams, is played by Emma Watson. I was really curious to see how she’d do. She is, of course, known for being in the Harry Potter movies and not much else, so she had to overcome this expectation from the masses that would only ever see her as Hermione. And I have to admit, initially Hermione was all that I could see. I even mentioned to my husband that you could still sort of hear her English accent. But as the movie progressed, I forgot about Hermione and really started to appreciate her as Sam. She brought an ernestness and empathy to Sam in regards to Charlie. Sam in the book seemed to be sort of above it all in the sense that high school was just a way station to her real life where she could be herself without fear of judgment. What you couldn’t see in the book was how Sam looked at Charlie and that’s when I really understood that Sam was not merely tolerating Charlie (like a sister letting her little brother tagalong), but she liked him and liked spending time with him.
Overall, I liked the movie much better than the book. The book is told from Charlie’s (admittedly limited) point of view whereas the movie lets us see what all the characters can see. A look from Sam here, Patrick’s heartbreak there, Mary Elizabeth’s fiesty personality, Ponytail Derek’s douchebaggery, Candace’s love for her brother…it makes it all so much easier to understand. This movie does not suffer from moving from the library to the theater because it’s directed by the author. That’s right, Stephen Chbosky actually directed (and wrote the screenplay to) his own book. He does such a phenomenal job. Admittedly, he REALLY understands the material and he makes a great case for authors directing their own work and writing their own screenplays. Imagine how much better the entire Twilight Saga would have been if the movies were done from Stephenie’s point of view (if she, indeed, had the talent that Stephen does). Or, to use a better example, if Jo Rowling wrote the screenplay for Harry and let Ron keep all his great lines and not gave them to Hermione.