From Book to Screen: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

From Book to Screen

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Novel: Stephen Chbosky | My Rating: 5 Stars | You can find my review of the novel here.
Screenplay: Setphen Chbosky | My Rating 4 Stars
Film Rating: PG-13

The film is a diluted version of the book. It’s as if Chbosky used a sieve to filter out offensive elements without changing the underlying emotional charge. Don’t get me wrong the movie is great, one I’ll add to my collection just as I added the novel to the lauded keeper shelf.

Chbosky created these characters and their story, giving him an advantage when manipulating them to fit the film medium. Had someone else written the screenplay the wrong things would have been accentuated.

Cut From the Same Cloth With Alterations to the Pattern

Smoking was conspicuously absent. I understand, teenagers take center stage and promoting a potentially deadly habit is a no-no. But one of the first things Charlie notices about Sam and Patrick is their penchant for chain-smoking. Charlie himself picks up the habit.

Patrick’s flamboyance didn’t jive with my mental image of him and the portrayal nagged at me throughout the movie. Okay, he dresses up as Dr. Frank-N-Furter for their Rocky Horror Picture Show routines, that is rather flamboyant. In the novel he gets the nickname of “Nothing” because people were calling him Patty and he said, “Listen you either call me Patrick, or you call me nothing.” While the shortened version of his name isn’t exclusively female, it leans toward feminine more often than not. Maybe I’m wrong, but that suggests to me he’s an under-the-radar kind of guy. By the way, they changed the reason for his nickname in the movie.

A couple of relationships differed in the screen re-telling. In the film, Charlie and his sister seem close from beginning to end. On the written page, their relationship is rocky. Charlie steps in when she faces a crisis and things aren’t as strained between them. Charlie’s integrity shines when he’s dealing with Candace. The absence of this sibling dynamic makes me a bit sad.

While Charlie’s relationship with his English teacher is present through the movie, it isn’t prominent. The novels and conversations between the two in the book shaped Charlie in a way. Admittedly, it could come off as creepy if not handled right.

Other minor differences were evident such as extended family members left out and less time spent on Charlie’s older brother. Those things were extraneous and easy to overlook. Only readers of the book would miss them.

Success or Failure?

All the differences I mentioned were paltry in the grand scheme. What Chbosky did in excellent fashion came straight from the novel. Some scenes and dialogue couldn’t have been more spot on had someone tipped the book over and shook the words from the pages to the screen. Aunt Helen and the vagueness of her role in Charlie’s life unraveled just as it did in the book, with subtlety.

Overall I believe the film succeeds on all levels. It accurately represents the book and stands on its own as a movie.