Like politics or sports, high school is one of those topics that generates a wide array of strong opinions. Good or bad, everyone’s experience during those four years is memorable in some way, and Hollywood has never been short of films that attempt to capture that moment in time. The Perks of Being a Wallflower does it with the honesty and angst many of us remember too well, and captures more of the truth of being a high school student than previous films.
The movie is based on the novel of the same name, published in 1999 and written by Stephen Chbosky, who kept control of his work by penning and directing the film adaptation.
“I wrote the book for very personal reasons,” Chbosky says. “I was going through a difficult time in my personal life. But I had also reached a point in my life where I was ready to write about why good people have to go through such bad things and how a family of friends can get you through. I really needed answers for myself and it was like Charlie tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘I’m ready to tell my story.’”
Charlie, the main character in his story and portrayed by Logan Lerman in the movie, begins the movie as a loner, giving hints of childhood trauma, and hoping to change things for the better as he enters high school as a freshman.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion,” Lerman says after reading the script. “The people are so real and interesting. I didn’t know who I wanted to play at first, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of the film no matter what.”
“I thought no one knew Charlie like I did, but Logan does,” says Chbosky. “His performance is so subtle. He is awkward, but at the same time he’s handsome and positive. He navigates every emotion with such dexterity. I think it’s one of the greatest performances I have ever seen by such a young actor.”
Shortly after school starts, Charlie befriends two of the most unique people he’ll ever meet – Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller). The three of them together lead a young cast that not only embrace the material with such care, but inhabit everything about these teenagers Chbosky wrote about over a decade ago.
“I think the script was waiting for this cast,” he says. “If I’d finished the screenplay three years earlier, they would all have been too young. If I finished two years later, they would be too old.”
Instead, he got them at just the right stages of their lives and careers. And all of them, including co-stars Mae Whitman and Johnny Simmons, were young enough to portray high schoolers, and old enough to examine the psychology of that time period in one’s life. Chbosky and the cast (minus Lerman who was shooting Darren Aronofsky’s Noah in Iceland), sat down with Jake Hamilton of Fox 26 Houston and “Jake’s Takes” and broke down the high school experience.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is currently playing in select cities and expands nationwide Friday, October 5th.