A letter on the perks of watching “Perks”

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Dear Friend,

I’m writing because she said you would listen, and because you didn’t sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Also, I’m writing because I just saw “The Perks of Being a Wallfower” last night.

I’ll admit I was nervous. I was worried that one of my favorite stories would lose its magic in in translation from the page to the screen. I wasn’t confident that Emma Watson could convincingly pull off an American accent, or that Paul Rudd could assume a serious role when playing the perceptive teacher-turned-confidant for the protagonist, a shy, introverted boy named Charlie. But “Perks” delivers in these ways and more.

The main problem with books rewritten into screenplays happens when plot revisions lead to divergent themes. “Perks” is spared from the typical Hollywood movie makeover — the author of the original book, Stephen Chbosky, also directs the film. He preserves the essence of the story and accurately brings the complicated beauty of the characters to life on screen. The adapted plot adheres closely to the original. Charlie (Logan Lerman) starts high school as an awkward loner, uncomfortable with his family and with himself. He joins an eccentric friend group when he meets stepsiblings Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson), finally finding a place where he belongs and breaking out of his shell to experience intimacy and love.

The strongest aspect of Chbosky’s fiction is the characters: they all evoke a candid empathy. When I read the book, I was instantly captivated by Sam’s kindness and her underlying insecurities. If anything, Watson makes Sam a more likeable persona. She does a convincing job with her American accent, and portrays the character with charm. From the way she prepares a milkshake to the way she jumps to her stepbrother’s defense in a physical fight, Watson draws you in and doesn’t let go. She made me forget about Hermione Granger for the full 90 minutes while I was watching “Perks,” which isn’t an easy task when your career has been defined by the “Harry Potter” franchise.

The most gripping scenes contain both Watson and Lerman, who is equally impressive as Charlie. As a wallflower, a person of very few words, Lerman masters the subtlety of facial expressions to communicate his character’s mood. I’ve never felt more sympathy for a boy as he watches his crush kiss someone else, or as he remembers fleeting moments of happiness with his late aunt.

Of course what really made Perks a successful film adaptation — what all the fantastic acting and artistry amounts to — was that it had the same effect on me that the book did. Chbosky’s novel is one that changes you; it’s memorable, compelling and evocative. The movie captured all of this energy with a moving plot and vivid characters, by the time it reached the closing moments, I swear I too felt infinite.

Love Always,

Payal

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