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.