The Perks of Being a Wallflower | Film Review

Thumbing through my heavily highlighted and dog-eared copy of Stephen Chbosky’s ‘Perks Of Being A Wallflower,’ it was with a mixture of excitement and dread that I took my seat at Fulham Broadway’s Vue Cinema to watch the film adaptation of one of my favourite books.

I recently lamented the forever inaptitude of films to portray the novel in a way that doesn’t take away from the magic of the printed word. That doesn’t mock your imagination for the way it pictured things. That doesn’t Hollywood-ify even the most beautiful of stories.

With ‘Perks Of Being A Wallflower,’ I needn’t have worried.

Directed and written by Stephen Chbosky himself, the film version of ‘Perks,’ remained true to the novel in a way very few feature length films have managed. Chbosky’s love for his characters evident in the casting, with the young actors successfully conjouring up a troupe of textured individuals, rather than archetypes.

Logan Legerman, aka Charlie, the protagonist, instantly endeared himself to the audience, magnificently and with undeniable aptitude bringing a much-loved character to life. To anyone who ever felt on the outside of things, unable to understand the seemingly easy-going lives of those around them and trying, but failing, to participate, Charlie holds up a mirror.

Ezra Miller, last seen in broody ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin,’ magnificently portrayed out-and-proud student Patrick, who’s effeminate touches added another layer of truth to this coming of age drama. Emma Watson, perhaps one of the biggest household names in the film proved slightly less remarkable. But passable. She got the job done.

But how did a tale with such a heavy storyline translate to a rated 12A Hollywood blockbuster? Surprisingly, very well. Although some themes such as teenage abortion and un-consensual sex were left out of the 102 minute production, others, like child molestation, homophobia, suicide and the trials and tribulations of teenage-dom were portrayed with unflinching honesty and openness. Facts that must be applauded when you consider the arguable culture of shame which so pervades us.

A perfect blend of happy and sad, the emotions of the characters manage to infiltrate the audience in a genuine way, no cheese-alarms sounding off, but rather leaking eyes, tugging heartstrings, and a peek into a mind that is not your own, but may well, once upon a time, have been.

Are certain moments in the film slightly over the top? Perhaps. But is that not what being a teenager is all about? Every rejection and every problem seemingly insurmountable and the end of the world as you know it?

If anything, Chbosky’s characters recognize this, dropping beautifully written and observed epiphanies throughout the course of the film. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” perhaps the most poignant, and important of observations.

Jump On The Bandwagon : The Hunger Games | Novel Thoughts

Originally published in 2008, The Hunger Games trilogy has recently stirred up an abundance of interest selling over 26 million copies, with the first novel sat comfortably atop The New York Times bestseller list for more than 180 consecutive weeks since publication.

This comes at a time where a film adaptation – co-written and co-produced by Suzanne Collins herself – is teetering on the brink of release, anticipation steadily building for what many deem “the new Twilight.”

Whether this comparison is a fair one is, however, debatable. Despite the fact that both are arguably targeted to an audience of young adults, and include a love story – that is pretty much where the comparison ends.

Whereas the Twilight series are vampire-themed romance novels, The Hunger Games actually tackle profound themes – the likes of severe poverty, starvation, oppression, rebellion, social inequality, a Big brother nation and the effects of war – themes which are all arguably, and tentatively relatable to the every day existence of human beings. As such they raise interesting questions about our real lives, all the while serving the purpose of novels – that of an escape mechanism.

Lenny Kravitz, who plays Cinna in the film echoes this, suggesting that what makes the books and movie so interesting is that many of the issues are, in fact, current: reality television, violence, the 99 per cent versus the 1 percent.

These differences between the two are further pronounced in terms of the protagonists of the stories, as well as in the way gender relations are portrayed. Whereas the Twilight series focus on damsels in distress who wait on their male counterparts to come save them, Katniss Everdeen – the heroin of The Hunger Games takes matters into her own hands – morally complex characters finding themselves often caught in between the mutually exclusive right and wrong, with the divisions between the two more often blurred than not.

One thing that can be certain however is that The Hunger Games is the next big franchise – critics already lovingly lapping up the film, which is set to hit theatres March 23rd. And with the Harry Potter era having finally come to a close – it seems there is no better time, and no better protagonist for the world to adore.

Co-star Donald Sutherland expresses his views on just how important he thinks the story is:

“This script could make a film that actually motivates, energizes a generation of young people who have been – from my point of view – by in large, dormant. It can make them stand up and take political action. It could help them to recognize with this allegory the nature of the society they live in and the need for change.”

Set in a dystopian future where the United States has fallen apart, the Hunger Games are a reality show that wouldn’t actually seem too out of place on today’s television screens. Bar the fact that the 24 young contestants are in fact fighting to the death.

But whether or not the novel will translate well into film is the question on everyone’s lips.

Variety Magazine have criticised the cinematic rendition as not having taken the “artistic gambles that might have made this respectable adaptation a remarkable one.” But considering the film has been certified a PG13, this concern, and consequent criticism is a predictable one.

This is a concern echoed by The Hollywood Reporter who criticised it for softening the plot to ensure children would be able to watch it. This undeniably takes away from the thrill, hunting instinct and page-turning qualities that make the novel so powerful and popular – but which, understandably, would be difficult to translate to the screen.

The film is also criticised as not remaining “wholly true to Collins words,” a criticism which lovers of the book will undoubtedly strongly lament. This, however, is an aspect of films that are based on books that literature lovers must be getting used to by now.

Why? Because with film you are given a version of events, rather than fabricating your own. You are not allowed to come to your own conclusions, but rather given someone else’s. In a movie you are told what to think and how to feel and how to envision the characters. In a novel, they are (almost) as much your creation as they are the authors.

This is intensified by the fact that an entire story spanning hundreds of pages and delved into with as much depth as the author wishes to and can muster, must be condensed into an easy to digest one hour and thirty minute film.

That said, apprehension levels are equally as high as the expectations and excitement levels surrounding the release of the first film, which is set to hit theatres this Thursday.

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green | Novel Thoughts

photo: TheNerdDilettante

This is not a book review. After all, how can you review something which – true or false – tells a magically spun tale of bravery, triumph and failure all at once. How can you speak of something which inverts your beliefs, reaffirms them and all the while makes you aware of the fact that happy endings are not always what you think they will be. And that the ending may not be what you want it to, but exactly what it should be.

I’m not really a crier. But ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ made me sob and lament (out loud). Continuously. ‘What is this world?!’ I literally sobbed through tightly clenched teeth. Who are these characters that you’ve made me love and then taken away from me?

I’m not really a let-me-think-about-this-all-night-er. But John Green’s novel made me think and re-think and question and stumble upon epiphanies.

Only John Green can make a book about two teenagers fighting cancer and falling in love not as depressing as that instantly sounds like it will be. Only John Green can make the book hopeful, and funny at the same time as slapping you around the head and screaming SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR FIRST WORLD PAINS because some people have it worse, but deal with it better.

“That awkward moment when you walk into the house and you find your girlfriend crying… because someone died… in a book” tweeted my boyfriend when he saw my mascara stained face. “in a book LOOOL a film you can understand but a book :/ really now” – someone replied.

But it makes perfect sense to me. In a movie you are told what to think and how to feel and how to envision the characters. In a novel, they are (almost) as much your creation as they are the authors. They live in your head and share the same significances any of your friends or acquaintances do. That’s part of the reason I love reading so much. That’s part of the reason it’s so bitter-sweet when you’re thumbing the last page of the novel. You know their story is partly ending with you.

And it’s something he does magnificently well – John Green that is. He makes the characters so likeable that you have no choice but to instantly fall in love with them and feel their every emotion as if it were your own. The characters in one of his previous novels; ‘Looking for Alaska’ are the same. They are so relatable, and, for want of a better word – likeable that you find yourself mesmerized. Often so close to launching into a conversation or laughing along with a joke they told – that you have to look up from the book you’re holding in your hands and realise that they are trapped there, in the space between the pages, your eyelids, and your imagination.

But that’s off topic. One of the things I love the most about John Green is the words he chooses to express himself. Just like a beautiful voice or a beautifully painted – anything -… a piece of prose, a well placed word, a sentence that makes you re-think or simply re-affirms what you already believe… it’s art.

It’s life changing.

“I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it – or my observation of it – is temporary?”

That’s one of my favourite exerts from the novel. And in so much as it is directly contradicting my belief that “everything is temporary” – they can both exist in tangent.

This is not a book review. After all – how can you review something which touched you so deeply, without feeling at a loss for the words to do so. “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” – I just needed to write it down, to express the beauty in the words which made it so.

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”