When The Perks of Being a Wallflower (POBW) was published in 1999 it was immediately embraced by teenagers and young adults who related to the highs and lows of being in high school. While controversial among some, the book inspired a new generation, leading many to compare it to Catcher in the Rye, another book from the 50’s about an teenage angst and alienation. Thus when it was announced that a film adaptation was being produced, many were concerned if the movie would do the book justice.
POBW follows a young boy’s journey through his freshman year in high school. Through a series of letters written to ‘a friend’ we learn that Charlie (Logan Lerman) is anxious about starting high school, not having any real friends and too shy to participate in class. He soon notices another outcast named Patrick (Ezra Miller), a senior, whom he befriends. Through Patrick, Charlie is introduced to Sam (Emma Watson), Patrick’s step-sister, whom he immediately becomes smitten with. Charlie is immediately embraced by their circle of friends and is introduced to new experiences, including music, drugs, and relationships. Through their friendship, Charlie slowly begins to cope with his past, having lost his best friend a month before his Freshman year started as well as his Aunt, who we learn through flashbacks, died in a car accident when he was a little boy. Charlie also begins forming a friendship with his english teacher, Bill, who sees potential in him and encourages him to read and write. Thus Charlie experiences the many hardships one goes through when in high school: unrequited love, acceptance from peers, making mistakes, and dealing with grief. It all culminates with a secret that Charlie has been harboring for quite some time and how he must come terms with it.
POBW may be about teenage life, but it deals with adult themes, and thus isn’t just a teenage angst film. Adapted for the screen and directed by Chbosky, POBW is well crafted for a director with little experience. The performances by Lerman, Watson, and Miller are excellent, as each convincingly portray teenagers harboring secrets. Lerman in particular does a great job with his character, balancing many emotions throughout the film naturalistically and with ease. The film is also well constructed, handling the emotional roller coaster with a balanced touch, delivering laughs, joy, and sorrows beautifully. And while many viewers may not have experienced the struggles that these characters have endured, the film realistically handles their situations, allowing anyone to be able to relate. With adulthood around the corner for these characters, there will be many more struggles to endure, but as in the film, there’s also happiness and love.