Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Perk of Directing Your Own Novel's Movie - Casting Your Own Characters: Our Review of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (2012)

Directed By: Stephen Chbosky 

Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Paul Rudd

Rating: PG-13 on appeal for mature thematic material, drug and alcohol use, sexual content including references, and a fight – all involving teens

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Synopsis: Based on the novel of the same name, Charlie (Lerman) is a teenager just starting high school who is trying to cope with the suicide of his best friend and his own mental problems. When he struggles to find new friends in school, a pair of seniors (Watson and Miller) take him under their wings and introduce him to their group of friends.


Andrew: Hello readers! Last night Sarah and I were able to catch a free screening of the new film adaptation of the hit novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, directed by Stephen Chbosky, who also wrote the novel that came out in 1999. It stars Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief) as Charlie, a freshman just starting high school who narrates his story through writing letters to a nameless friend; Ezra Miller (We Need To Talk About Kevin) as Patrick, a gay senior who befriends Charlie; and Emma Watson in her second post-Harry Potter role as Sam, Patrick’s best friend and step-sister who also takes Charlie under her wing.

So Sarah, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of our best friend’s absolute favorite book and was very excited about this coming out, and in turn continually told us we would like the book. We didn’t get a chance to read the book before we saw this (sorry Eileen!), but now that we’ve seen the film adaptation, what did you think?

Sarah: I really, really liked it! I did not know that the author of the book was also the director of the movie, so now that I know that I feel more confident that this is the best adaptation from book to screen that you could get.

I absolutely loved this movie. I thought it had such heart but at the same time had a sort of dark undertone that I think will surprise the audience a bit.

A: Especially if they’re unfamiliar with the source material.

S: Yes, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the story. I thought it was going to go in one direction and it ended going in another one, which pleasantly surprised me because I’m not often surprised by movies anymore.

What did you think?

We were surprised by how much we enjoyed the tale of Logan Lerman's Charlie and his new group of friends. Lerman in particular does a stand-out job.

A: I also was very impressed with this movie. I didn’t quite know what to expect coming in; the trailers make it look like it’s a little more artsy, a little more feel-good if you will…

S: Like a feel-good coming-of-age movie.

A: Yeah. And it is, for part of the time. But like you said it deals with some very real, human issues. I liked that it takes place during the early 1990s so it’s kind of a period piece. But it deals with a lot of things that teenagers have to deal with in a very honest and realistic way. It deals with drugs, it deals with sex, suicide, sexual abuse, physical abuse – it covers the gamut really.

But it handles it all superbly and I can only imagine that’s one of the reasons so many people loved the book and related to it so much. It doesn’t just use these topics for shock value, it actually builds up these characters – particularly Charlie and everything his character has had to go through in his life. It would appear that Chbosky made these complete characters in his book and brought them to life on screen.

S: I will say, I was incredibly leery of taking Logan Lerman seriously as in actor in this role. He’s previously starred in Percy Jackson and the recent, terrible The Three Musketeers…and he’s really kind of come across as…I hate to put it like this, but like a Disney Channel actor. Very tame, very flat and one-dimensional; but he was awesome in this movie!

I give him mad props. I kind of started out thinking, “Oh man, he’s going to prove to me he’s not a very good actor.” But as the movie went on I was going, “Wait a minute! No, he’s really good in this role!”

A: I completely agree with you, I thought Lerman was fantastic. Absolutely fantastic, and to be quite honest I think it was one of the better acting performances we’ve seen this year. I don’t think he’ll get award buzz but for what his character has to go through and the way he emotes all of it, it felt incredibly real. The facial expressions he made, the line readings…it was all just felt very real and earnest.

But I think a big talking point about the movie, especially for more casual movie-goers and Harry Potter fans, is that this is Emma Watson’s first starring role outside of playing Hermione Granger. How do you feel she did?

S: Umm…that’s a tough one. I want to say that she did amazing like Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller did. But I feel like I can’t quite do it.

A: Why not?

S: It totally could be that she has been sort of pigeonholed as this very sweet and innocent character actress, which, you know she’s human so I’m sure she’s not 100% perfect…but the character of Sam is sort of an edgy character and I struggled watching her in this role a bit.
A: And that’s because you identify her so much with Hermione?

S: Yes, I identify her with Hermione but I also kind of identify her with Natalie Portman as an actress. I identify them as being very similar actresses, but like Natalie showed us a couple of years ago with Black Swan, she can do the dark and twisted. I think Emma Watson has a little more room to grow as an actress before she can start doing these sorts of roles without people seeing her as Hermione.

A: Well first let me preface this by telling the readers that Emma’s role isn’t nearly as dark as Portman’s was in Black Swan

S: Oh no, no, no, no, no.  Just as like a difference from previous roles.

A: Ok, then yeah. But at the same time I think this was a great first post-Harry Potter starring role because it IS so – in one instance at least – out of character with what we’re familiar with her as. But at the same time her character is very sweet and you still see a lot of the same qualities that you saw in her in the Potter films.

Emma Watson's role as Sam in The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a definite step in a different direction than her famous role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies.

I felt that she did a pretty good job opposite of Lerman. She didn’t blow me away but I think she did a very good job and I think it bodes well for future roles for her.

S: I’ll agree with that. I have to say her American accent bothered me a bit.

A: It didn’t bother me at all.

S: And not because you notice her British accent seeping in, like sometimes British actors will drop letters, but in fact it was too perfect for me. Her American accent was SO crisp, SO learned…

A: You think she enunciated too much?

S: I do. But that’s not a complaint, it wasn’t like I thought it was a bad American accent, she just needed to maybe speak a little more casually. But this was her first movie where she’s DONE an American accent, so I have to give her some slack on it.

A: Like I just said, it didn’t bother me. I thought she did a pretty good job with the accent. I give her props for me NOT thinking about her normal British accent while I was watching her.

S: True. Ok, so this cast is STACKED. You have Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, Ezra Miller and Mae Whiteman, who’s shown up in some good things like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World...

A: Very true. But let’s talk about Miller really quick. He plays Patrick, who is Sam’s step-brother and a gay teenager in an early 1990s Pittsburgh. Still not quite a time when it was widely accepted, or even accepted nearly as much as it is today, to be an out and proud gay teenager, especially in high school.

He did a pretty good job of representing both the side of being proud of who he is but at the same time he knows he has to be controlled with it and a bit secretive especially when it comes to a relationship he has with a fellow classmate. I felt the scenes involving that were handled deftly and his performance alone makes me want to watch We Need To Talk About Kevin now.

S: Yeah, his performance was awesome. He’s this kid who comes across as super fun and super happy, but you learn as the movie goes along that he struggles just as much as any other teenager. Just because he’s gay doesn’t mean he’s that stereotype of being a fabulous, happy gay guy all the time. No, he’s seriously struggling with things like identity, with love, with heartache the same way every other high school student goes through.

I felt that he did a great job. I loved the chemistry between him and Emma Watson. It truly felt like they were best friends and still brother and sister. I thought they did a really good job with that. So I give the movie props, it was an impressive cast.

For being such an impressive adult cast, I will say that they did not overshadow the students at all, either.

A: Awesome, because that’s the exact question I was about to ask you. There ARE some big names here: Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Paul Rudd…and for the most part it’s not like they’re window-dressing, they’re there as supportive roles as parents or the English teacher that befriends Charlie, respectively. And in some cases you might think bigger stars might overshadow the younger actors…

S: But that wasn’t the case at all here. Kate Walsh’s role was one I’ve never seen her in before. I’ve usually seen her with a bigger role with a large presence on the television screen. And the shows usually revolve around her…

A: But it was nice to see recognizable faces as Charlie’s parents and not be focusing on them too much. I think that’s a testament to how well the main cast of characters did, too.

Great chemistry between Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller (center) and Emma Watson made watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower much easier. We genuinely cared about these characters.

S: Yes, but I will say I enjoyed having those recognizable faces, it felt like they were more relatable, and in many cases I felt like Paul Rudd played a very Paul Rudd-like character, but it was in such a good way! Like you would want this guy as YOUR English teacher. And I think Dylan McDermott and Kate Walsh did a great job as the parents. When they grieved, you grieved. Like you could tell it hurt them.

A: That particular scene you’re talking about is one that made me shed a tear. What they emoted as parents really hit me hard.

S: It hit me hard, too.

A: So I completely agree.

S: Joan Cusack has a very tiny role…

A: She does, she came in really late but did a good job. You know what? The smaller role that I really enjoyed was Tom Savini as the shop teacher, Mr. Callahan.

S: I recognize him from something.

A: He’s one of the best make-up and special effects artists in film history, and he does some small film roles from time to time.

S: That’s right!

A: So I got a kick out of seeing him as the shop teacher here. He doesn’t have a whole lot to do but as a horror movie fan it was neat to see him in this film. I got a kick out of that.

So all of this said, another point I wanted to touch on because it’s a big part of the movie is the music. Music really is important to the character, many mix tapes are made, which is a totally 90s thing to do…

S: That really killed me.

A: So, did you feel like the music enhanced or didn’t do much for the movie?

S: I felt like it fit in just right with the time period. It was mainly obscure artists I’ve never heard of but it fit because it was kind of quirky and the cast was quirky, so I felt it fit really well.

A: I thought it was funny that an important song in the movie is “Something” by the Beatles, but you never hear the song. That’s probably because of what it would have cost to pay the rights to use it, but still.

S: Yeah! But at the same time it’s not about the SONG itself, it’s a little more about the physical record.

I loved that the movie was old-school. I feel like a lot of people our age will feel some nostalgia over some things. Well maybe not our age but a little older than us…

A: I was gonna say, the main characters in this movie would be in the mid-to-late thirties right now.

But yeah, overall I loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I found it to be very funny as well.

S: Yes, and so did the audience we were with!

A: It was a packed theatre and the audience ate it up. They loved this movie, and I think that’s a good indicator of what this film can do when it goes wide.

So, any last thoughts on The Perks of Being a Wallflower?

S: I loved it. I want to own this one someday because of the fact that it surprised me.

A: I’m right there with you. That means our final verdict is…

FINAL VERDICT: We’ll own one day! A must see in theatres!

(Individual Scores - S: 5/5  A: 5/5)


  1. Nice review guys. I'm most excited to see this film because of Ezra Miller.

    I first saw him in City Island where he was witty and charming. Then he followed that up with We Need to Talk About Kevin where he was creepy and had such a presence.

    He's going to be huge and Perks is just another step forward for him.

    1. Thank you Ben! Miller was fantastic and he killed us with his performance. We seriously need to track down a copy of We Need To Talk About Kevin ASAP to see him in that because he's so electric in this that we can only imagine how he is in Kevin.

  2. Good review. One of my favorite flicks of the year and with all good reason, it shows high school in the way that I can best remember it. Everything here just struck a chord with me and it was unlike any other high school movie I have ever seen before, because of the beautiful and raw emotions I felt. In case you wondering, yes, I teared up quite a bit.

    1. Thank you Dan! We're glad to hear it had that effect on you, too!

  3. Love your review! Mostly because I agreed with everything you say. On FTS Nick & I reviewed it together and it was interesting because he knew absolutely nothing going in and I love the book dearly but we both came out loving the film which I think is a very good sign. I was very apprehensive because of the impression the trailer gave but the movie definitely had the heaviness of the book and not the feel-good tone the trailer had. I'm glad you both liked it so much!

    1. Thank you Jess! We loved it. Definitely makes us want to go read the book. We should have listened to our friend Eileen when she told us to long ago! But you're absolutely right about the trailer seeming to be more light-hearted. The film certainly had that but was also very dramatic and that surprised us in a good way.

  4. LOVE this movie. It moved me very deeply. It's a shining moment for Stephen Chbosky, Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman. Immediately after watching it, I felt like I needed to see it again sometime. I also wouldn't mind owning this dvd when it comes out.

    1. Couldn't agree more! Very impressed with Chbosky's first directorial effort.