The perks of ‘Wallflower’

By on October 24, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower originated as a novel read by many-an outcast, misfit, loner, or if you will, wallflower in middle and high schools all across the country since its publication in 1999. The thin lime green paperback holds so many delights, both uplifting and melancholy, within its pages: tight knit friendships among the disenfranchised, a poignant look into the introverted psyche, and great music recommendations to boot. Many hold this book near and dear to their hearts, and others just pretend to like it because it’s ironically the “popular” thing to do. Nevertheless, a lot of fans were suspicious when the news dropped that this novel was to be adapted into a movie. A movie starring none other than Hermione Granger (aka Emma Watson) in an important leading role. Could she do the American accent? Please, please, please don’t rewrite the character of Sam as being British, Stephen Chbosky! Don’t let the studio turn Patrick into a swishy gay caricature! He’s so much better than the Hollywood stereotype! And what about Charlie, our main little wallflower? He is arguably the most important character of all. If Charlie fails, the movie fails.

Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller star in "The Perks on Bing a Wallflower". MCT Campus

With so many expectations to live up to, will Stephen Chbosky, writer of both novel and screenplay, not to mention director, be able to stay faithful to his original creation? After seeing the movie tonight, this fan says yes. Mr. Chbosky, you have done well. The Perks of Being a Wallflower was released in late September to a few select cities (Birmingham, of course, was not one of them), and was released nationwide on October 12th. The film stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, a sensitive and introspective boy just starting high school. He is ignored by most of the students, and even bullied by some. After a rough start, he finds companionship in Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (the aforementioned Emma Watson), two seniors also on the school’s fringe. The two welcome Charlie into their circle of friends, a rather oddly cool group including Mae “Her?” Whitman as punk rock Buddhist Mary Elizabeth. For the first time following a few tragic incidents in his young life, Charlie finds acceptance; all the while discovering new alternative rock music, literature, and the joys of controlled exhibitionism via The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The movie isn’t all highs, though. Charlie frequently has flashbacks to his beloved Aunt Hellen, who died in a car accident when he was a child. His guilt and depression over her death causes him to have black outs. He is also affected by the circumstances in his friends’ lives, including the fact that once they all leave for college, he will be alone once again. While there are some outcasted teenage standards present in the movie such as homophobia, name calling, and reluctant romantic relationships, the movie generally steers clear of the vapid go-to’s that are present in many other movies. Some fans were a bit weary about Mr. Mudd Productions (the same group that brought us the pretty-good-but-still-awkward-at-times Juno) being a driving force behind the movie; afraid that maybe some cringe worthy phrases might sneak their way into the mouths of the characters, no doubt. I can assure you, there is no “honest to blog” nonsense here. The movie takes place in the early 90’s, if anything it would be “honest to my awesome typewriter and/or mixtape”. But really, the dialog stays incredibly close to what is in the book.

So, let’s talk about the inevitable movie to book comparison. The screenplay stays faithful to many of the scenes, dialog, and characters in the book. Some things had to be cut out, such as Patrick and Sam’s cigarette smoking, a subplot involving Charlie’s sister, and a few family flashbacks to enhance the pacing of the film. However, Charlie’s siblings do have names in the movie, unlike the novel. And his famous mix tape book ended with ‘Asleep’ by The Smiths is referenced. Music in Perks is a very important theme and its quality is present. Oh, and it’s spectacular! Present are The Smiths, a band that reflects a lot of Charlie’s mental states, songs from L7, Throwing Muses, a magical moment involving David Bowie’s Hereos, and one of Sonic Youth’s best: Teenage Riot. So many people who loved the novel often claim Perks got them into good music, and this film’s soundscape has plenty of influential tunes. Remember how all the obnoxious people jumped on the Moldy Peaches bus after Juno? This is not the case. A good bit of lonely fifteen-year-olds might find musical solace in the soundtrack, however.

Fans of the book going to see this movie will be pleasantly surprised to see how well the novel transferred over to film. People unfamiliar with the book may also enjoy Perks for its realistic portrayal of high school but also the hopefulness we all feel once we are finished with it and move onto building our lives. Or will feel, for any younger viewers. Whether you want to feel infinite, even for a moment, or just need to see a movie that’s a step above the standard box office crap, check out The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s not just a suggestion, it’s a really good idea.

By the way, her American accent is convincing, in case you were wondering.

Britty Reese
Senior Staff Writer
brittyr@uab.edu

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