Book Adaptation Done Right

Anyone who knows me knows that I am very picky when books that I love are turned into movies, even when I pick up a book strictly because a movie is being made. Some of you might remember this post where I reviewed The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I bought the book for one reason – because I follow Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) on Twitter and she couldn’t stop raving about this movie she was making. I had heard about the book but hadn’t read it, and since I wanted to see Emma in the movie, I bought the book. And I loved it. Which made me apprehensive about seeing the movie at all. Yes, I realize how silly that sounds.

The movie is out on DVD now and I was able to get it from Redbox. And I have to say – I was blown away by it.

perks moviewThis is a very faithful book-to-movie adaptation, and there are several good reasons for that. For starters, the book is only about 200 pages long. This isn’t a Harry Potter monster topping out around 700-800 pages, where you know full well that it will have to be slaughtered in order to fit into standard movie parameters. They still had to leave things out, of course, but not that much. Another reason why it’s so good? Stephen Chbosky wrote the screenplay AND DIRECTED THE MOVIE! The author of the book had enormous control over how the movie came out, and it came out brilliantly.

Moving on to the cast, starting with the star of the show, Logan Lerman. He plays Charlie, a high school freshman who is very troubled and starts writing letters to a pen pal he doesn’t know but has heard nice things about because he needs to express himself to someone. (Side note – since the book is made up of nothing but Charlie’s letters, I was worried that it wouldn’t translate well to screen. Pfft. I shouldn’t worry about those things. It worked perfectly). Logan captures Charlie’s innocence, his desperate desire to belong somewhere, and most importantly, his complete and total breakdown towards the end of the movie. It was heartbreaking to watch, especially since I knew it was coming. You can’t help but love Charlie and want to look out for him, and watching him come unglued, to the point where his sister sends the police over because she’s afraid he’s going to hurt himself, was both beautiful and tragic.

Next up, Ezra Miller who plays Patrick, a senior in high school who befriends Charlie and brings him into his circle of friends. Patrick is a tricky character, one who is very quirky with a sharp sense of humor, but who also has a dark side. I would think in some ways this would make him very difficult to play, but Ezra does it very nicely. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do with it, since I think Patrick was actually my favorite character from the book. And don’t miss his portrayal of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in Rocky Horror. It’s hilarious.

Finally, the reason I wanted to see the movie in the first place – Emma Watson. She plays Sam, Patrick’s stepsister and best friend, and Charlie’s mad crush. I had to say, I was really impressed with her in this movie. I’m so used to seeing her as Hermione Granger, but Sam is about as un-Hermione as you can get. She’s a little wild and crazy, but the sweetest thing is her relationship with Charlie. When Charlie slips in the fact that his best friend committed suicide, Sam immediately decides that her group of friends need to watch out for him. She loves him, gives him his first kiss, and supports him through all his troubles. Emma captures every aspect of this character perfectly, and Sam is a complicated person who has had a very difficult childhood. I was very impressed with her versatility. And her American accent, which she did very well.

There were so many scenes from the movie that were captured exactly from the book. The scene at the dance, where Charlie decides to join Patrick and Sam on the dance floor. The scene in the tunnel where Sam stands up in the back of the truck so she can feel like she’s flying. The mix tapes that Charlie makes for all his friends. I loved everything about this movie, but the best compliment I can give it is that it made me feel the same feelings I felt when I read the book. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and it makes you sad when it’s over.

So go see it. You won’t be disappointed.

I swear we were infinite . . .

Today’s review is one that I have been looking forward to writing ever since I finished this book – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s a hard review to write though because, honestly, where do I begin? There is so much in this book, and it’s not a big book! My copy only has 213 pages!

Perksofbeingwallflower1The story is told through a series of letters written by Charlie, a fifteen year old boy heading off to high school for his freshman year. We are never told who he is writing to, as the letters all start with “Dear friend.” Charlie confesses that this is a person he has never actually met, but who he has heard is a good supportive friend. I had the feeling throughout the book that maybe this person didn’t really exist, but was just Charlie’s way of expressing himself. Regardless, these letters chronicle Charlie’s freshman year of high school and how he learns to fully “participate in life” and not just be a “wallflower.”

There are so many relationships throughout this story. Charlie’s family has an interesting dynamic, and don’t always get along, but it is clear that Charlie does know that he is loved. He also falls into a group of friends at school, most notably two seniors – Patrick and his stepsister Sam. Charlie instantly falls in love with Sam, who sort of takes Charlie under her wing. I think my favorite relationship was between Charlie and his English teacher Bill, who sees potential in Charlie and gives him harder books to read and papers to write. He is the one who encourages Charlie to break out of his shell and live his life to the fullest.

There is a bit of a darker undertone to this story. Charlie is clearly not well. He has a lot of mental issues, partly because his good friend in middle school commits suicide, and partly because of another issue which I won’t go into here because it’s a pretty big reveal towards the end. This book has been banned or challenged many times, and I can understand why. There is a lot of alcohol and drug use, as well as very open discussions of teenage sexuality, from Patrick’s relationship with Brad (the high school quarterback who is still very much in the closet) to Charlie’s relationship with Mary Elizabeth and later Sam. This book doesn’t pass judgment on any of these topics. They aren’t really shown in a positive or negative light. These are just things that happened, which gave the book a strong feeling of honesty.

This book made me laugh and it made me cry. It also made me feel incredibly nostalgic, not because I had any of the experiences that Charlie had, but because it makes me remember what my life felt like when I was his age. How wonderful it felt to see your future stretching before you, full of infinite possibility. Anything could happen, back then. This is why I read a lot of young adult fiction, even though I’m well into my 30’s – to regain that feeling, even if just for a little while.

This is a great book and, although it may not be for everybody, I think most people would benefit from reading it.

Purchases and Podcasts

This week, while continuing with Stacking the Shelves over at Tynga’s Reviews, I will also be linking to Showcase Sunday with Books, Biscuits and Tea. Both websites are excellent places to talk about books.

My haul this week: three new books.

1. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton – Bought this one to talk about on the podcast. Oh yeah! Have I mentioned that I’m on a podcast? I probably have. It’s called Bibliophiles Anonymous and can be found on iTunes, Podbean, and YouTube. In our last episode, my friend Jess and I continued the discussion from the past Top Ten Tuesday topic and talked about the series we stared and didn’t finish. This book is our next discussion this upcoming weekend.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – Bought this one because I have heard a lot of buzz about the movie version that will be in theaters soon. I think I want to see it, but as always, I want to read the book first to see if the movie stacks up.

3. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins – I read this book several months ago from the library (you can find my review here). I thought it was a pretty good book, and included it in the list of series that I would like to finish at some point. Then I came across the first book in my local used bookstore for $2.50. Yep. Had to get it!

So that’s my take home this week. Did you find anything good?