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Massive film fan, and first year History student.

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Friday, 12 October 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Review & book comparison

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is heartfelt and charming, bolstered by a refreshing leading cast, it may not be totally faithful to its book compatriot, but it is a lovely adaptation nonetheless

When I first discovered that The Perks of Being a Wallflower was being adapted into a film, directed by the book's author Stephen Chbosky, I was sceptical. Not least because of the complex character relationships in the book, the emotional weight they hold and how this would be translated to screen, but also the hiring of Chbosky as director. This was mainly due to the fact that when an author converts their book to screen (especially one as well loved as 'Perks') they are able to justify any changes along the way, no matter how bad. This, along with a strong media focus on the casting of Emma Watson and her post-Harry Potter career had me hesitant as to the film's success. 

However, my worries disappeared when I watched the film last week, 'Perks' was moving and emotionally mature, yet light and humorous simultaneously. The story (as in the book) revolves around 15 year old Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he embarks on his first year of High School, his narration reveals his worries about making friends and surviving the next few years of his life in the school's social hierarchy. However he quickly makes friends with half-siblings, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). The audience soon comes to realise Charlie's hesitance, naivety and timidness about the new school year is down to two events. One, the suicide of his best friend the year earlier, and the second, the story of his Aunt Helen which is shown through short intermittent clips of the young Charlie and his Aunt. I won't reveal any spoilers about the ending and the revealing of repressed memories of his Aunt, yet it's safe to say the finale is powerful and well acted. However the vague ending scenes do lack the emotional weight that the book's last pages carry.

I did have fears that Logan Lerman's Charlie would have been more an awkward Michael Cera-esque character than the insecure Charlie found in the novel, but his performance was spot on. A timid yet charming portrayal, Lerman was also able to get across the complicated and dark teenage angst which Charlie's character so often represses. Emma Watson's turn as Sam gave us a surprisingly edgy yet amiable character who's fierce protectiveness of her friends was moving, if not all too reminiscent of a certain magical character we all know. Intelligent, in her teens and her two best friends were boys, it's easy to see the comparisons with Hermione, but this performance continues to solidify her continuing and maturing road to breaking the Potter shackles. However, the best performance of 'Perks' comes from Ezra Miller as the loveable, flamboyant class clown, Patrick. After a dark, stirring portrayal in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Miller continues to cement himself as one of Hollywood's hottest new talents. He communicates not just Patrick's egotistical and energetic tendencies, but the struggle with his sexuality and his private relationship with a popular High School football player, Brad (Johnny Simmons), the price of the ticket is worth his performance alone.

The film's three lead performances carry the film, any other actors may have fallen to the sometimes flimsy script. The relationship between Charlie and his English teacher, Bill (Paul Rudd), could have gone into more depth (like the novel) as Rudd's Bill is warm and inspirational yet he is limited by the little time he has on screen. This could have been the same with several others of the supporting cast such as Charlie's sister Candace (Nina Dobrev) and particularly his Father (Dylan McDermott) which I found to be one of the book's strong points, yet it was clear from the beginning that Chbosky's key theme here was friendship, not family. The references to The Smiths and vinyl records would have sounded much less pretentious to the books original 90's audience, yet to a modern teenager at points, sounded cringe-worthy.

Despite some details, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a pleasing, brilliant coming-of-age story with three of the finest performances i've seen this year, fans of the book will not be disappointed. 3.5/5

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