When I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower in Grade 9, I was a slightly awkward freshman just like Charlie, trying to make friends and get involved in school. Even though I didn’t deal with the same problems as the book’s protagonist, there were evidently times when I felt alone.
The book’s author, Stephen Chbosky, knows these feelings all to well. On hand to present Perks’ film adaptation at TIFF (which Chbosky also directed), he reminded everyone in the theatre they should never feel lonely. “I’m so proud to be sitting in a room with 1200 people. Whether you like this movie at the end of the day or you don’t, just know that no one in this room is alone.”
His book gathered a cult following when it was released in 1999 and still resonates with many young people who deal with the universal challenges of growing up.
The film stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, a bright yet awkward teen about to enter his freshman year of high school. Having spent time at the hospital to deal with the recent suicide of his best friend Michael, Charlie decides to cope with his loneliness by writing anonymous letters.
Hopeful for the upcoming school year, Charlie’s reserved and introverted nature initially makes it difficult for him to make friends. But once he meets the eccentric Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his beautiful stepsister Sam (Emma Watson), he’s soon introduced to a new world featuring mix-tapes, parties, sex, drugs and alcohol.
As things begin to look up for Charlie, curveballs continue to be thrown his way. He fights his growing feelings for Sam and struggles to push away unresolved memories of the past, all while realizing his friends have problems of their own too.
Things I loved:
The chemistry between actors is crucial in a coming of age story that focus a great deal on love and friendship, and the film couldn’t have chosen better leads. While Watson may forever be known as “that girl from Harry Potter,” it’s nice to see her tackle a more challenging role like Sam, a troubled girl who sleeps with boys for validation. Although she experiences a few challenges with her American accent, Watson flawlessly depicts Sam’s insecurities about getting into university while trying hard not to be Charlie’s dream girl.
However, it’s Lerman and Miller who shine in the movie. While Miller steals scenes as the cynical and sarcastic Patrick, Lerman hits all the right notes by providing a heart-wrenching performance that’ll make you tear up. Also appearing, are Paul Rudd and Nina Dobrev as Charlie’s English teacher Bill and his sister Candace.
Featuring songs such as The Smiths’ “Asleep” to 80s hits such as Midnight Runners’ “Come on Eileen” and New Order’s “Temptation ‘87”, the songs in this film will either take you back to another decade or make you want to create your own mix-tapes.
How it stays true to the novel (includes photos from the premiere below!)
What I really enjoyed about the film was how true it stayed to the novel. The book is written in a series of letters to show Charlie’s growth, so it’s nice to see this portrayed on screen. As Charlie experiences a new world featuring weed brownies, crazy antics and performing in a racy production of The Rocky Picture Horror Show, we’re also able to see him face the struggles he needs to overcome in order to live a happier, fuller life.
Like the novel, Chbosky’s film provides just as many laughs as it does tears. With Miller serving as the glue that holds the trio together, Watson and Lerman provide the more heart-breaking and sensitive moments that will probably make you want to cry.
But don’t worry if you haven’t read the book yet because the film is totally relatable on its own. Just be sure to bring lots of tissues as it’s an emotional whirlwind.
Photos from the Toronto premiere