Over the course of the 21st century, movie adaptations of the popular coming-of-age novels became almost a plague in the film world. Every other YA novel was begging to become a critically acclaimed film for tweens and teenage girls all over the world. Naturally, this rise of adaptations came with some of the most questionable movies released this century, but some were redeemable. Some were even fantastic. One victim of the book-to-movie adaptation that I thoroughly enjoyed was The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) based on the novel by Stephen Chbosky. Compared to the book, this film came across as somewhat lackluster. However, when separated from its predecessor, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a modern classic for teenagers everywhere in the world. With a packed cast and a charming storyline, this movie has garnered the attention of many people since the years of its release for reasons only explicable through experience. Both the movie and the book deal with heavy topics pestering teens since the beginning of time, including sexual assault, sexuality, depression, anxiety, and suicide. Despite the heavy topics discussed, many find comfort in watching this movie and being able to relate to the characters’ stories despite the unnecessary melodrama. I recommend the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) is a beautifully tragic coming-of-age story that allows a way for the teenage point of view to be seen through the characters, their relationships, and the respective issues they face as highschoolers in a fast-moving world.
This movie packs a powerful punch from the opening scene. Charlie, our main character and narrator played by Logan Lerman, is an anxious 15-year-old who has to face a new life as a freshman in high school. As a young man, Charlie continuously suffers from mental health issues that impair his ability to lead a normal teenage life outside of his head. His main plight is that he blends into the background too much, making him and his issues practically invisible. Eventually, our narrator befriends two seniors, Sam and Patrick, who welcome this wayward kid into their convoluted group of friends. They give him the title of the wallflower who observes and understands unconditionally. Making him feel human again, Charlie deeply appreciates the connections he’s been able to make through Sam and Patrick, even when they’re his exact opposite. As this tumultuous group suffers all the tragedies of high school, Charlie grows and learns how to simply be with them, and most importantly without them. Of course, as any teen melodrama would have it, crushes and drama inevitably ensue which only serve to fragment the friend group and isolate the main character. With this turn of events, Charlie’s mental health progressively worsens, and with no one around to notice him anymore, his situation becomes scary. His past as well as his mental health issues are kept in the background until almost the very end of the movie when they reach a dangerous fever pitch. When the point of no return hits, Charlie finally learns that he isn’t on his journey alone, despite how alone he had felt before. Ultimately, he found his wallflowers, who simply observe and understand who he is unconditionally. Hope grows and flourishes at the end when even the audience feels like we aren’t alone on our wallflower paths.
In a complex story such as the one presented in The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), complex characters are essential. Charlie deals with constant issues throughout the movie which seems to consume him inside and out. As a character, Charlie is supposed to be a fly on the wall (basically). People often don’t notice him or his struggles, driving him to develop depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. When he meets Sam and Patrick, he learns to open up and to love, leaping outside of his head for a while. However, his dark past often pulls him back into his reality, in which he is no one and nothing. Many teenagers can see themselves in a character such as Charlie in his quest for recognition. Every teen out there has felt lost or invisible at some point in their lives, which is why the character of Charlie is beautifully painful to watch. You see his story unfold before your eyes and it almost feels like watching yourself on a screen. His mannerisms and his actions are so uniquely teenage that no matter who you are, you’ll be able to connect with him on a deep level. Charlie isn’t the only complex character, however, as his companions have equally heartbreaking stories. Sam, the girl next door, is a troubled teenager dealing with failed relationships and sexual assault. Her and Charlie, both taken advantage of when they were children, deal with intimacy issues. Sam’s toxic relationship prevents her from finding real, pure love outside of intimacy. No matter where she runs, Sam always seems to bump into troubles she can’t fix and problems she pretends to understand. In simple terms, she’s lost. Everyone struggles to be found once in a while, which is why the depiction of her character is so special. She embodies a searcher, like most of us. Eventually, after much confusion and suffering, she finds her way with Charlie, giving her character a bittersweet ending. She serves as a message that life does get better after high school, you just have to find your way. Finally, our last wayward teen is Patrick who fights his sexuality in a world that doesn’t accept him. Scrutiny often centers around sexuality, which is why Parick feels so isolated. The only boyfriend he has hides him from the rest of the world, ashamed that people might find his dirty little secret (Patrick). This severely affects Patrick’s self-esteem, as he doesn’t feel worthy of love. Patrick realizes that he can’t be openly gay and alive in his town. His frustration and morphed perception of himself are painfully real, especially for teens struggling with their sexuality and the plethora of issues that accompany “forbidden” love. They’re dumb, naive, and hurting, which is what makes them the ultimate trio and the ultimate humans.
Other than the impeccable storyline and the beautiful characters, this movie also has wonderful, iconic quotes. They seem to capture life in a couple of sentences, so popular and real that they hurt upon listening to them. My favorites are:
- “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
- “You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand. You’re a wallflower.”
- “You can’t just sit there and put everybody’s lives ahead of yours and think it counts as love.”
- “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower accomplished to be a modern film encompassing teenage ideas and experiences. Media today appreciates this adaptation despite its flaws because of the utter relatability one feels when watching. We almost feel like the wallflowers ourselves, who observe Charlie’s story and simply understand what he’s going through because we go through it ourselves. This film tells a beautiful story that understands experiences no one dared to explain before. It created a space for everyone to relate to, making this movie timeless and ironically extremely striking. Charlie, Sam, and Patrick teach us to not give up because there is much more to life than just high school. I recommend people to watch this movie and enjoy the pain of observing yourself through a screen because all the tears and the anguish are worth it when we see the hope at the end of the tunnel that is high school and teenage life.
Good luck Reader!