Usually when I hear a book is becoming a film adaptation, images of melodramatic Nicholas Spark book-based films infiltrate my mind, and I grow pessimistic of the upcoming feature. This became especially true when I heard one of favourite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, was the latest to undergo the film treatment. However, I came out of the theatre feeling more than satisfied with the end product.
One of the reasons I feel the Perks film complemented the book so well is due to Chbosky taking on the role of screenwriter and director. Too often film adaptations lose the vision of the author, but Chbosky prevented anything of the kind. Its simple style allows the characters to take centre stage, while still remaining aesthetically appealing to watch.
This film is about the characters more than anything else. Logan Lerman plays the protagonist Charlie, a precocious high school freshman and self-described ‘wallflower’, who starts to come out of his shell with the help of seniors Patrick (played by Ezra Miller) and Sam (played by Harry Potter alum Emma Watson). Lerman plays Charlie with subtle grace, and Miller and Watson have dynamic chemistry as stepbrother and stepsister. Frankly, I was a little apprehensive about Watson in the role of Sam, since Sam exemplifies the offbeat, quirky American 90’s girl. Watson exceeded all my expectations by far, however, and even accomplished a believable American accent.
This is truly an ensemble film, with the entire cast exhibiting comfort in one another. Mae Whitman is hilarious as the eccentric Mary Elizabeth, who briefly dates Charlie, and The Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev stars as Charlie’s environmentally conscious older sister. All the main characters are well developed and experience a sort of arch. No one-dimensional stock characters invade this film. Chbosky excels at creating a film devoid of clichés, despite Perks being a ‘coming-of-age’ film. From the screenplay and performance of the actors, the viewer experiences a very realistic depiction of adolescence, and appeals to the inner wallflower in all of us. ‘It’s real high school, not Hollywood high school’, comments Dobrev. Non-Americans should have no problem relating to the storyline either.
Simply put, the film is effortless. It may not be as good as the book (but how could it be?), but as near to perfection as a film could get to this timeless tale.