With an average high school setting, and a not-so-average high school story, Stephen Chbosky directs this coming-of-age film, bringing to life his own novel in a manner that captures the self-discovery and nostalgia of growing up.
The film begins, as the book does, with protagonist Charlie (Logan Lerman) writing a letter to an unnamed ‘friend’ on the night before he starts high school. The plot follows him through his first year at school as he meets Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) at a football game and is drawn into their lives. By attending house parties and performing The Rocky Horror Picture Show with them – all whilst dealing with a new life at school – Charlie begins to understand how friendship gives people a place to belong.
The film’s flashbacks are a nice touch, showing Charlie’s younger self and filling in the background of his past. Transitions between scenes are pleasingly unusual, particularly one where the camera zooms to a piece of communion wafer on Charlie’s tongue, which has changed to an LSD tablet when it zooms out again. Some of the scenes themselves, on the other hand, feel a little disjointed because the time scale between them varies from a few moments to a few weeks.
As far as adaptations go, this one remains faithful to the novel and includes some of the book’s most famous lines such as ‘We accept the love we think we deserve.’ The script is split between witty dialogue, which gives the film it’s more fast-paced scenes, and thoughtful philosophies that create moments of close and identifiable friendship. This doesn’t make it two dimensional, however, as scenes are interspersed with Charlie’s thoughts in a first person narrative.
The casting is first rate. Lerman captures the honest integrity, awkwardness and confusion of his character well. Watson, while her American accent can be deemed questionable in places, excels in her first recognisable role since Harry Potter.
Miller’s performance as Patrick, however, leaves the rest of the field in the dust. Whilst this is partly due to him having some of the most humorous lines, what really sets him apart is the vivacity and individuality he brings to his character. Patrick’s resoluteness to be his own person in a setting where people hide their true selves away is something the audience will warm to. Nina Dobrev’s Candace isn’t given nearly enough screen time as Charlie’s sister, considering her importance in the book, but this doesn’t dent the overall adaptation.
Music is a crucial part of the film and the soundtrack is made up of both the original score, composed by Michael Brook, and a mixture of popular, iconic music that is well chosen to fit the 90s setting. It is unclear why Chbosky doesn’t use more of the music from the novel, but his decision to use Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ for, arguably, the most important scene of the film in the tunnel is unquestionably good.
It closes The Perks of Being a Wallflower on an emotional high and leaves us with a message that we shouldn’t feel guilty for living in the moment and feeling invincible while we’re young.