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.

Read vs Watch – Leave us our printed words.

I love reading. Often more than I love people. Frequent visitors to my blog or those who follow me on Twitter may gauge this by by how often I go on and on about the good books I have read and how much I love them.

The problem with this in a society filled with people who expect instant gratification and instant information with minimal effort – is that a joy that was once shared by millions of people and was the only way in which stories could be passed on and revealed – has now been transformed into another medium. That of film.

But do films and novels give you the same satisfaction? The same information? The same benefits? The answer to that question is a loudly resounding and resonating no. Even when they are based on the same story.

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 elses. 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.

Turning the pages to a novel is like entering an entirely different world. One in which your first world pains don’t matter. One in which you become deeply entrenched in the story – re-reading sentences that change your life and your perception on it. Just how John Greens ‘The Fault in our stars‘ left me sobbing and with an entirely different idea of what is important, and normal.

One of the only movies I have ever seen that has stayed true to its novel form is ‘The Help.’ A feat that was not easily achieved, but rather ensured through the persistence of the author – Kathryn Stockett – to make sure the film rights were passed on to someone who would stay true to the story. In this case, her best friend.

Other renditions of my favourite books the likes of Time Travellers Wife and Eat Pray Love were heartbreaking to watch. Marring favourite phrases, making favourite characters hateful and plots confusing. Film critic Flossie Topping partially agrees, arguing that it is lazy to make book adaptations for the screen, and that original screenplays are always better.

It’s not entirely the film makers faults of course. Apart from the argument that it is not what we read and therefore not what we expect to watch… 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 is a task I would not envy.

This is worsened by the thirst for money which makes all these films need to conform to Hollywood standards. Tears, drama and big, big stories. Even if that isn’t the purpose behind the novel. Perhaps what Hollywood should realise is that if the book is a bestseller – it’s pretty obvious we like it that way.

That is not to say that change isn’t good. “Change is the only constant.” But some things should be left sacred, and pure. Technology and the advancement of society have taken so much away. Leave us our printed words.

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“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them”. – Mark Twain

“A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.”

“What you read when you don’t have to determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” – Edward P. Morgan