Book to Film Club Recap: The Perks of Being a Wallflower Accepts the YPG Love It Deserves

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The YPG Book to Film Club packed into a movie theater-esque conference room at Simon & Schuster last Wednesday night, February 20th, to view the adaptation of the much beloved YA novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The book’s author, filmmaker Stephen Chbosky, both adapted the screenplay and directed the movie, so we had the rare benefit of knowing that the original book author was in creative control of the film. The crowd enjoyed the film, but as is usually the case, it’s safe to say that we liked the book better.

One sentence synopsis: In this funny and touching coming-of-age story, an introvert high school freshman named Charlie is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.

Our initial reactions centered around casting and acting. It was widely agreed that Ezra Miller stole the show with his multidimensional performance as Patrick. He was able to portray a misfit, a best friend, and a gay teenager. One YPGer appreciated that he didn’t make Patrick into a “one-trick-pony” the way other gay characters are sometimes portrayed. Emma Watson was generally liked, but we thought she was an imperfect choice for the rebellious Sam. After seeing her as Hermione for ten years, it’s hard buy her as an insecure American teenager struggling for high enough SAT scores to get waitlisted at her local state university. Watson’s grace and self-assurance shine through into Sam. Not to mention her British accent. (Didn’t we hear her say ‘posh’ and ‘snog’?)

There were also mixed reactions to Logan Lerman’s portrayal of Charlie. Some thought he was even more immature and impaired than in the book, while some thought he seemed more grown-up. Part of the confusion could be tied to the format of the story. The film departs from the book significantly in format—while the book is told entirely through a series of letters that Charlie writes anonymously to a mysterious “friend,” the film depicts the scenes in live-action. Rather than just hearing Charlie’s (presumably subjective) side of the story, movie viewers watch what happens to him, what he says, and how people react to him. The effect is a more objective view of Charlie that doesn’t always jibe with our original interpretation of his letters.

Charlie wasn’t the only thing that changed in translation. In a story arc that lasts a whole school year, the novel manages to address the tough topics of mental illness, suicide, bullying, breakups, cheating, abuse, and teenage pregnancy, as well as some lighter-hearted ones: rocking out to the Rocky Horror Picture show, getting into college, the woes of freshman year, the hallmarks of senior year. The movie made a valiant effort, but it could hardly fit all of that into 102 minutes, so some plot points got short shrift and others were rushed. YPGers thought some of the lines that felt so significant in the book didn’t have the same impact in live action. “We are infinite” and “You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love,” somehow fell flat. However, the big plot reveal that happens at the end of the story (I won’t say any more that that) was equally shocking in both book and film, though it was foreshadowed more strongly on screen.

One theme the film did give its full attention to was the tumultuous nature of romantic relationships. Nearly every romance depicted had its troubles (and in some cases its total dysfunction), which some YPGers thought sent a depressing message about the ability of relationships to last or even succeed in the short-term. But some in the crowd found the lack of Hollywood happily-ever-afters to be refreshingly appropriate for a movie about teenagers. The signature line, “We accept the love we think we deserve,” rang true in both movie and novel—the central characters are lovably incomplete and immature, and we can see that their love lives will remain imperfect until they grow up and learn to love themselves. When a forlorn Patrick asks: “Why can’t you save anyone?” the story leaves us with an unspoken answer: You can only save yourself.

The next YPG Book to Film Club selection has yet to be announced, but the club was thrilled to hear that a YPG trip to the movie theater to see The Great Gatsby is in the works for later this spring or summer.

Ellen Maddy works at Rodale as a Digital Books Assistant Producer. She read The Perks of Being a Wallflower on her Kindle.

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One Response to “ Book to Film Club Recap: The Perks of Being a Wallflower Accepts the YPG Love It Deserves ”

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    […] “Book to Film Club Recap: The Perks of Being a Wallflower Accepts the YPG Love It Deserves“ The YPG Book to Film Club packed into a movie theater-esque conference room at Simon & Schuster last Wednesday night, February 20th, to view the adaptation of the much beloved YA novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. […]