I can sum up the review that follow in this sentence: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is the missing piece in the John Hughes legacy.
You know that feeling when Hollywood actually get the film adaptation of your favourite book right? I’m not talking about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings which were marvelous versions of the beloved books. No. I’m talking about those small, important books we love that get turned into movies and we cringe at the sheer announcement of the adaptation because we’ve been burned so many times. Well, this, thankfully, is not the case with Perks.
When I’d read the names of the cast for Perks I had dismissed the movie entirely. Paul Rudd? Kate Walsh? Percy Jackson? Emma Watson? It’s not that I don’t like most of these actors on their own, but these are not the actors to play these characters. At least, they weren’t the actors I’d envisioned. And I wrote about this when it was first announced – we always dismiss the actors chosen to play our favourite fictional characters but the response is so immediate these days. Imagine if Twitter was around when Daniel Radcliffe had been cast as Harry Potter? An uknown to play the boy wizard? Twitter would’ve BLOWN. UP. But we can’t picture anyone else playing Harry, right? After having seen Perks I can’t picture anyone else playing these roles, but it still doesn’t mean I love the casting choices. But that’s where Perks really became it’s own. Yes it’s a fantastic adaptation of the beloved book. Yes it respects the source material (which is obvious as author Stephen Chbosky adapted and directed the film version of his own book WHICH MORE ON THIS LATER BUT THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN ALMOST ALWAYS) but it became it’s own in this really interesting way.
Perks is a very intimate story and on the outside it appears to be some flimsy, poor us, white people movie that you shouldn’t care about. That’s what I thought before I had read the book, which was leant to me which makes me hate eBooks so much more because you can’t lend someone the eBook of your favourite book, but I digress. Perks is so much more, but at the same time, so simple and elegant in it’s story telling. It doesn’t try to be anything more than it is, it just tells a very touching story about a misfit, his group of friends, and the struggles of being a teenager. For those who were popular in high school, you’re rolling your eyes and I get that. For those of us who were given nicknames on the first day of school and will, unfortunately, never forget that experience, this book (and now the movie !!) is so much more.
The film works on several levels. It moves very swiftly during it’s nearly two hour running time. I thought it was a great screen adaptation of the book, which again, thank you for letting the author handle the film version of his work. How often has this happened? The cast separately are a little weak, but when they’re together, it’s kind of fascinating to watch. There is this spark between Emma and Logan and Mae and Nina and Ezra (who, ugh, is so good in this movie and he knows it) that is so compelling and very reminiscent of The Breakfast Club. The standout in this movie, for me, is Logan Lerman. Again, when his name was announced as the actor chosen to play Charlie I almost threw my computer. He just was not Charlie (then). But he gives such a compelling and brutally honest performance in this movie. He’s so, so, SO good. The film, visually, comes off as very cheap. Without looking it up, I imagine the film cost next to nothing to produce but that works in it’s favor. It’s a charming, charming looking movie.
I started off the review by throwing John Hughes’ legacy under the bus but I mean it. If you’re a diehard Hughes fan like myself, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you watch this movie. There is an intimacy that is capture from the cast to the plot to the small moments, that everything works. Like any John Hughes’ film, it’s just a story of finding yourself and wanting to be accepted and it doesn’t beat you over the head with that notion, but it compels you to care for Charlie and Sam and the entire flock of Wallflowers, the way you cared for The Breakfast Club.