Adaptations of popular best sellers and books is always a tough job in the industry of Hollywood. It takes a few executives to step in and try to appeal to broader market to completely screw it up. Yet, there are instances when Hollywood decides to play nice and lend the driver’s seat to the author and have them show off their vision to the world. Such is the case with this week’s film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Produced, written and directed by Stephen Chobsky, Perks is a throwback tale into the years of high school youth of the early 80s detailing the freshman year of resident wallflower Charlie, played by Logan “Percy Jackson” Lerman. Along the way, Charlie comes across some cool senior in the form of Patrick, an outspoken gay teenager played by Erza Miller, and manic pixie dream girl (a recurring theme in the Film A Week series) Sam, played by Emma “Not Going to Call Her Hermonie” Watson. The life of Charlie goes from him just being a wallflower latching onto to a certain group to diving in too deep into his own psyche, emotions and desires.
To be perfectly honest with the reader, it is hard to write about this film and review without going into spoilers of both the film and the book, but I will try my best. Charlie is a messed up soul, not by choice of course due to an undeniable bout personal trauma in his life. He is truly an awkward fellow that Logan Lerman’s portrayal could be the spawn of Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg if it was possible for those two to mate. Lerman plays Charlie with simplicity, yet pulls off the most serious of moments with realism. Erza Miller is phenomenal as Patrick and lived up to expectations tackling the sarcastic gay archetype with subtlety and shining bright in darker moments. One killer moment is during arguably the most cringe worthy moment of the film, Patrick immediately utters the immortals words of “Well, that’s fucked up”, breaking for a comedic beat, but not ruining the tension of the scene.
Emma Watson as Sam is the typical manic pixie dream girl with a bit more too her than the others. She has a past that is just as broken as Charlie and Charlie envisions her as the ultimate girl who can do no wrong despite dropping acid every now and then. Watson sells it well and is magnificent.Actually, without Emma Watson’s involvement, Perks of Being a Wallflower would have never even hit the screen. She and Stephen Chobsky got together to talk about trying to get this film off the ground. They both went shopping the film rights around Hollywood demanding it be made until Summit finally said “Fine. It will make up for Twilight” (I assume that is what the executive said).
The rest of the supporting cast is just stellar. From the smallest of roles with Dylan McDermott as Charlie’s dad to Mae Whitman playing an excellent clingy girl archetype cannot bare to be with, everyone is stellar. Never would I have thought they cast an adaptation so perfectly outside of Lord of the Rings, but with a bevy of great actors and actresses, this film proved that wrong.
Chobsky’s vision of his own work on screen is grounded in the reality of the 90’s with low lighting, not going to into high concept and seems to have a clear focus. It is quite a treat to see an author go from writing the initial version of a scene in novel form for the reader to imagine to showing off what he wanted to convey to those curious to view it. For a novel that is told entirely in letters to a mystery friend, this film manages to keep to the same rhythm as source material. The audience only sees Charlie’s account of the events going on and leaves us to wonder who some of characters are, what are they thinking and what they took away from the experiences.
Overall, I regret waiting until now to read the novel and watch the film as it is certainly one of the few great adaptions of an already great story. If I could go back in time, I would have knocked out The Dark Knights Rises from my Top 12 of 2012 list and easily placed this film on it. the Perks of Being a Wallflower is great for those who have read the book and wondered if it could live up to the book’s reputations. For those who never read the book, do not fret because the film covers just as much as the book. Either way, you are in good company and you will fell infinite after it is all over.
Next week, we wonder what exactly is love and go on adventure with Charlene Yi to seek out the answer…if we don’t fall head over heels with Michael Cera first. Time for Film A Week to take a breather post as we sit back and watch the faux-documentary Paper Heart.
Film A Week 30: Paper Heart (2009)
Saturday Friday, August 2nd