Contributed by Sam Holle
If you were in high school in the early 2000’s, odds are you read or at least heard of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It was a topic of discussion among parents, students, and educators, making banned book lists due to its frequent references to sex, drugs, and illicit behavior. Beyond the controversy, it was a story about growing up, finding yourself, and learning to participate in the world.
The book spoke to me. Charlie is a high school kid who doesn’t fit in with the popular kids, but finds comfort in his new friends, Patrick and Sam. He’s like me! I thought. I’m socially awkward sometimes! Oh look, the object of Charlie’s affection is named Sam! My name’s Sam! I want a sweet boy like Charlie to fall in love with me the way he’s in love with Sam! I think this book was written just for me!
So it was no surprise that my inner high schooler squealed with glee the first time I heard it was being made into a movie. That inner high schooler kept squealing as I searched for a seat in the crowded theater. My inner high schooler was not disappointed at all.
The movie was written, produced, and directed by Stephen Chbosky, the author of the book. There were small plot points from the book that didn’t make it to the screen, but it didn’t matter. The movie is every bit an emotional roller coaster as the book. When Charlie’s heart breaks, your heart breaks. When Patrick is hilarious, you find yourself laughing as if with an old friend.
In the beginning of the movie, Charlie dreadfully counts down the days until the end of high school at the start of his freshman year; at the end of the year, he announces how many days are left without an ounce of that fear that was there before. You know Charlie’s journey is not going to be difficult anymore. You have watched him face his demons, confront his bullies, and stand up for the people he loves. You know that everything is going to be fine for him.
The actors were cast wonderfully; I couldn’t imagine anyone else portraying the trio of nonconformist friends and putting on such a beautiful performance.
MVP: The obvious MVP is Charlie, a hero who learns the importance of friendship and to not let his past control his future. My less obvious choice is Charlie’s English teacher — “Bill” in the book, “Mr. Anderson” in the movie. Paul Rudd does a spectacular job as someone who sees Charlie as a wallflower and helps him bloom into a participant in life. Mr. Anderson tells Charlie that he can see Charlie writing a classic some day, one that will be read by high schoolers and will stand the test of time. Chbosky, winking at the audience, knows that he and Charlie have already done this.