“I didn’t think anyone noticed me,” Charlie (Logan Lerman) says while leaving a party in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Charlie is the new student in school and was invited to the event by high school friends Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson). The three spend much of the film together as “Perks” shows them bonding as outcasts who struggle to fit in at a school where their mischievous personalities make them stand out.
Young novelist Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” first hit book stores in 1999, and while teens embraced it some parents found fault with its controversial content.
Now, Chbosky has adapted his own story for the big screen, serving as both its screenwriter and director, and he has three great up-and-coming actors to help tell his tale.
The story focuses on Charlie as he enters high school as a lonely teen with few friends to speak of. His best pal recently killed himself, and Charlie longs for a sense of belonging as well as friends willing to sacrifice popularity to spend time with an outsider who enjoys reading and wants to be a novelist one day.
As a young writer, Charlie notices little things about the people around him. He observes that Patrick, a superficially confident teen who shuns popularity, isn’t called by his real name after a shop teacher calls him “nothing” one day, a nickname that cruelly sticks.
Charlie doesn’t call his classmate “nothing” though. He calls him Patrick. And in the world of high school–full of cliques and cruel intentions–Charlie’s use of Patrick’s real name is enough to bring the two of them together. The two spend much of their time with Patrick’s step-sister, Sam. More free-spirited than the two boys, Sam isn’t afraid to be herself even when it makes her stand out.
Throughout the story, these three experience great friendship, tremendous heartbreak and tough moments that only loners- or former loners- can fully appreciate. But one of the brilliant aspects of the story is how Chbosky gives his characters the freedom to make terrible, heart-aching mistakes. None of these characters is only a victim. As they get hurt by high school bullies or indifferent relatives, these characters are also flawed in their own unique and (sometimes) naive way.
For those who dread great books being adapted into movies, “Wallflower” is unique in that the novel’s author guided it through the whole process. In doing so, he knew what was important to keep and what was unnecessary. He carries these characters through the sometimes-meandering plot, always understanding who they are and why they act the way that they do.
Charlie provides the heart and soul of this story, serving as the guide for viewers who might have forgotten what high school was like. And like typical adolescents, he has moments of great happiness and tragic pain- sometimes within moments of each other. He’s a fragile kid whose mood can change within minutes but whole heart is always stirring to do the right thing.
Much of the film comes down to one simple line: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” “Perks” is a movie about love between classmates, between friends and ultimately between wallflowers who eventually realize that there are unforeseen benefits for people who decide to stand out.