Nostalgia and The Smiths
I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I was 14 or 15. I read it in one marathon sitting, and when I had finished, I could have sworn the book was written for me. I identified so strongly with Charlie, it was a physical and emotional ache.
I was worried when I found out they were making it into a movie. I was worried that the characters I loved so passionately, the moments that had quietly broken my heart, would not translate well to the silver screen. I worried that the magic would be shattered, and the book’s hold on me tarnished.
I needn’t have been so concerned.
For one thing, Stephen Chbosky, the author, wrote, directed, and produced the movie. This means that he got to maintain his vision throughout, without having to relinquish artistic control to anyone else. And who better to make those calls than the person who created the world of the book in the first place? He knew what he was trying to achieve. The story unfolds slowly, casually, never forced. It is more of a relationship with the characters, rather than just being about the characters, and the cast pulls it off beautifully.
None of the characters were as I imagined them, really, especially Patrick, but it fast became clear to me that each actor knew the essence of the person they were playing. Though Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, and Logan Lerman are all known for other roles (Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin, Hermione, and Percy Jackson, respectively), they really disappear into these characters, really become them. It was fun to watch Emma Watson as not-Hermione, and never once even think of Hermione until later.
The music in the book is practically like another character, and is very central to the way that Charlie learns to relate to people and navigate interpersonal relationships. They did a great job of integrating the music into the movie and making it present. Classic indie music makes regular appearances (The Smiths, in particular), alongside such beauts as Air Supply. The music also contributes to the overall sense of nostalgia: anyone who is in high school, or graduated high school, or knows someone in high school, can relate to this story. We all remember those parties where we didn’t know what we were doing, the blossoming of new friendships, the crushes, the moments of devastating insecurity, the rush of graduation. Perks touches on these memories, these ideas, and weaves them up in a package of nostalgia and an impressive sense of the present. It’s like experiencing it all over again, except better.
The movie made me feel just like the book did. Like somebody understood. I spent much of it crying or trying not to cry, but more in a happy kind of way. This is as close to a perfect movie adaptation as I’ve seen. The famous lines were maintained and delivered seamlessly, quietly, without ceremony. I loved the book and I felt like my love had been honored, and that the experience of the book had only been enhanced by this version, not changed or diminished.
Do yourself a favor – read the book, see the movie. If you were ever a teenager, it is a worthwhile experience.
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