A Closer Look at the Book and the Movie: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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by Minul Asgar

The novel Perks of Being a Wallflower was written by Stephen Chbosky, who also directed the movie made from this book. Chbosky portrays teenage years as an awkward experience involving drugs, parties, and sex. The book revolves around Charlie, who has, incidentally, lost his best friend, Michael, and his Aunt Helen, with whom he was very close.

Charlie suffers from social anxiety and depression, which makes him believe that he is an outcast in his school. Chbosky created other central characters, such as Patrick and Sam, who help guide Charlie into becoming who he is. Patrick is a homosexual teen who is very open about himself and is overall an energetic person. Sam is a girl who doesn’t always make the right choices because of how she views herself. Upon meeting Charlie, the three connect and make memories they will never forget.

The movie is a fantastic representation of the novel. I found the cast selected for the film version to be very satisfying in each role, although many critics might disagree about the performances of a few actors/actresses.

The main cast members featured in The Perks of Being a Wallflower were:

Logan Lerman as Charlie

Emma Watson as Sam

Ezra Miller as Patrick

Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth

Nina Dobrev as Candace

Johnny Simmons as Brad

Paul Raud as Mr. Anderson

Erin Wilhelmi as Alice

and Melanie Lynskey as Aunt Helen

Emma Watson`s performance as Sam was a bit hard to believe because she is best known for playing the teen witch Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. As Hermione, she played a smart girl who is on top of everything she does. However, in Perks of Being a Wallflower, her character is a bit of a mess. Watson’s reputation as Hermione makes it hard for many of her previous fans to accept her as any other type of character. Though it was interesting to see her play someone so different from Hermione for a change, her performance seemed a bit off, although I might be a little biased.

Critics fussed about the movie being a typical teenage film with “no taste”, but I beg to differ. Yes, this teenage movie takes place in a high school where the main character is going through a hard time then has an epiphany that completely changes his perspective on life. Yes, Charlie is a teenager facing a number of complex issues which I think many teenagers can relate to. But this movie is far more than just another teen going through “phases”. Chbosky artfully portrays the “typical teenage journey” from several different perspectives, which lets the audience see how each life takes a fateful turn during a number of key events.

As usual, the book was essentially better than the movie. Since movies are restricted to a certain time frame, not everything got to be included. The movie left out parts that were covered in the book such as Candace’s abortion, Schenley Park, Charlie’s visit to Mr. Anderson’s house, and Michael’s suicide note.

Like many other books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is known for a couple of very memorable quotes. Certain lines if dialogue central to both the novel and the movie are perceived as wise and suitable to the theme of the entire story. Some of these popular quotes are:

1. “And in this moment, I swear…we are infinite.”

In this scene, Charlie stands in the back of Sam’s pick-up truck while they drive through the tunnel. Going through the tunnel in the novel/movie is a time where the outside world is blocked out for a couple of seconds and the music is amplified. At this time, Charlie feels unstoppable, because of the sense of freedom that he feels while passing through the tunnel. That “infinite” feeling is when Charlie reaches his highest peak of happiness.

2. “You see things. And you understand. You’re a wallflower.”

In the novel, Patrick tells Charlie this after Charlie saw Patrick kiss Brad, the quarterback of the football team. Patrick tells Charlie that Brad doesn’t want anyone to know and that Charlie must keep it a secret. In the movie, Patrick tells Charlie this when he hears that Charlie’s best friend, Michael, killed himself and that Charlie may not have any other friends. When Charlie hears this he is surprised that he has been recognized.

3. “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

This line is said by Charlie’s English teacher, Mr. Anderson, when Charlie asks why nice people choose the wrong people to date. Charlie sees that the relationship Sam has with her boyfriend, Craig, isn’t what she deserves because Sam thinks of herself as inferior. She judges herself as unworthy of a better kind of love. But the truth is we earn however much love we allow ourselves to earn.

Chbosky’s adaptation of his book into a movie is accurate to the extent of showing all the main events that take place in the novel. Also, it stays true to the story line by focusing on the trio of Patrick, Sam and Charlie, and how they interact and grow as people. However in the novel, everything seems to evolve at a steady pace, while in the movie everything happens very fast. That’s probably because of the missing scenes and the consequent lack of character development throughout the movie. If you are curious about the full story, read the book first, then treat yourself to the movie!

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