Last night I had the pleasure of seeing The Perks of Being A Wallflower before its official premiere in Toronto; getting the opportunity to meet and talk with Stephen Chbosky one-on-one afterwards was fabulous as well.
I wasn't sure what to expect before the movie started. The Perks was, neigh is, one of the most influential and touching books I've ever read. I remember being given a copy by an older friend my freshman year. While I've never been particularly introverted, there was always something about Charlie that I really identified with.... Perhaps it was the experience he had with his friends or some of the things in his past or maybe just the way we "notice" things. I'd honestly like not to think about it too much – it might ruin something for me if I were to actually figure it out; to quote Chbosky, “...it’s the same feeling you get when you didn’t quite understanding the lyrics of a song, so you made some up and then find out the real lyrics only realize they’re not as good as yours.”
To be honest, I was afraid that, even though Chbosky wrote and directed the adaptation, the movie wouldn't live up to my expectations. That couldn't be further than the truth.
Naturally, there were pieces missing from the book, which, according to Chbosky, would've "thrown off the emotions in the film" such as Charlie's sister's abortion or the poem reading at Christmas (for whatever it's worth, I agree with Chbosky 100 percent), he assured me that those scenes were filmed and will appear on the DVD/Blu-Ray whenever it ships. Perhaps that's one of the pieces that made the movie so special; Chobsky understands so astutely how and what touched his readers about The Perks and was able to stay as true to that as possible. There were some changes in music (most notably the absence of Landslide in the tunnel), but for the most part the “soundtrack” remained intact.
When one reads The Perks he cannot help but notice the almost unsettling accuracy with which Chbosky writes the voice of 15 year old Charlie. This is what I was thinking about as the movie started. That voice. How could Chbosky transfer Charlie from page—such an incredibly quiet and in-his-own-head character with vast emotional depth—to the screen? Somehow he did it. Perfectly. I have no fucking clue how, but he did. I've thought about it a lot and I'm sure that it was due in no small part to the outstanding performance of Logan Lerman, but there's something magical—something completely unexplainable—about it. Lerman's portrayal of Charlie was almost 100 percent what I'd scene in my head. That voice... it was still there. Emma Watson makes a phenomenal Sam and Ezra Miller, who I’d never seen before, was a great Patrick.
I'd also been concerned with how the book writ large would transfer to the screen (as it is written completely in letters to an anonymous person). While there are a handful of direct letters, it is no longer the thread which holds the piece together. It did throw me off a bit. I wondered, at points, where we were in the story as not everything follows the book’s chronology. While the book and movie are intimately intertwined, one still has to let go of the book to really appreciate the movie. The film is littered with chilling transitions. My favorite is watching the Charlie’s family go through the Midnight Mass line. As Charlie gets the wafered body of Christ, there’s a cut to him putting acid on his tongue. Thinking on it now, I could’ve written a 1000 words on the significance of this event alone. (And, if there’s some clammer for it, maybe I’ll write a piece). These things together, however, bring something fresh to the story. Every step is so well timed: if you know the story, you’re constantly tense and on the edge of your seat as you watch the characters grow in front of you. There’s more weight with each slow and steady step forward.
I laughed. I cried. I felt things from a film that I never thought I could. It has made me think and put a fire in me just as the book did years ago. I cannot say enough about this film.
Go. See. It. What’re you still doing here?