The Perks of Directing Your Own Adaptation

The Perks of Being a Wallflower -- Dir. Stephen Chbosky (Summit Entertainment) -- 5 Stars

“Rocky Horror” drag shows, pot brownies, David Bowie, and an “island of misfit toys” help create the work of art that is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” With composition like a oil painting, warm and blended, “Wallflower” does justice to Stephen Chbosky’s heartwarming coming-of-age tale with superb acting and a very realistic script.

From the very beginning, the movie captures an indie feel with soft music by a band you probably haven’t heard of (The Samples) and opening credits in typewriter Courier. Within the first few minutes, viewers are introduced to Charlie (Logan Lerman), an easily lovable high school freshman who suffers from problems he can’t quite verbalize. The friends he makes, specifically Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), help Charlie participate in life rather than just observe from afar as a wallflower.

The film centers around lessons of friendship, family, and love. One of the most touching scenes is when Sam organizes a Secret Santa game and Charlie gives everyone perfect gifts even though he’s known them only for a few weeks. Their stoner friend Bob, in the midst of blowing bubbles, whispers, “He knows me.” Charlie, as declared by Patrick, sees and understands people past the facade they adopt. As they open their respective presents, the teenagers act just the right amount of awkward and awestruck. Charlie stands there innocently, with a shy smile showing that he too feels a bit uncomfortable, but because he has given them so much of himself. Charlie is the film’s wallflower: quiet, perched in a corner, observing, learning, and loving. The character is so tangible and real he could be the boy sitting in the back of your math class.

All of the characters in Chbosky’s work are both complex and convincing. There is a certain realism within the movie, made tangible by the script and acting. Contrastingly, the movie is not shot in extremely crisp high-definition. Rather, it’s a more blurred view of the world, with focus subtly shifting as the camera moves so that it feels like you’re seeing things through your own eyes. The teenagers actually speak like teenagers, without any strange phrases being forcibly thrown into their lingo in order to seem age-appropriate. On the acting front, you forget that Emma Watson is Emma Watson, something very hard to accomplish especially after her being a main character in a eight-part major motion picture. She becomes Sam, who cares for Charlie deeply, and Charlie loves her dearly in return. They have a pure and enviable form of love, and thankfully, it’s not teenage gag-worthy love, but rather a mature type.

Music also plays a huge role in the movie and in the characters’ lives mostly because Charlie uses mix tapes and songs to express how he’s feeling. Together the music he chooses and the music that goes along with the scenes is what romanticizes the movie’s portrayal of teenage life. One of the most memorable moments revolves around a popular David Bowie song, “Heroes,” which plays as Patrick, Sam, and Charlie speed through a tunnel. At one point, Sam stands up on the backseat of the car, her arms spread out, with Bowie singing, “We could be heroes, just for one day.” In any other movie, this scene could have been the epitome of cliche. However, because everything thus far has been so realistic, a somewhat silly scene is actually enhanced in importance by Bowie’s song, which fits perfectly.

This pattern of realism and romanticism allows audiences to understand Chbosky’s points. The first is that things that may seem silly may actually be some of the most important aspects of a teenager’s life. Chbosky affirms that there’s a reason why those things are important, and that as adults people can find importance in them, too.  Even someone like Charlie, who nobody knew and who experienced pain in his past, is able to move forward and change his life and those of the people around him. Ultimately, Chbosky empowers teenagers and shows them there’s life beyond the angsty teenager stereotype.