Before I wrote this entry, I re-read my review of the book so that I can refrain from saying the same things again. Why? This is one of the best book to movie translations I have ever seen and both the literary source and on screen material were mind blowing. This early in the entry, I would like to give a big kudos to author Stephen Chbosky who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Saying that he did an awesome job is an understatement of epic proportions.
The movie centers around Charlie (Logan Lerman), a 15-year old who is starting his freshman year in high school coming from a painful experience. His best friend Michael committed suicide over the summer and he was pretty much the only friend Charlie had. Charlie is pretty smart but he does not “participate.” He chooses to be alone most of the time observing people. But one night during a football game, he lucks out and meets seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his stepsister Sam (Emma Watson), who take him under their wing and help him navigate through the jungle that is high school (read — smoking pot, drinking, hanging at parties, dating and love).
I loved this movie because it interpreted the core essence of the book so fully not only with excellent dialogue but with a cast that totally reflects the characters in the book. Emma Watson was the biggest name in the cast and she did an amazing job but Ezra Miller as Patrick totally stole the show as the openly gay character secretly seeing the star quarterback Brad (Johnny Simmons). I love his vulnerability and his strength and his sweetness to Charlie. Logan Lerman on the other hand, was the perfect Charlie. He was endearing and charming and so darned innocent that audiences would feel the strong urge to step through the screen and hug him to take his pain away. This might be one of the best casting moments on film (thanks hugely to Venus Kanani and Mary Vernieu). This group is magic. Their pain is palpalable, their joy infectious. They make audiences laugh and cry and pretty much draw the audiences into their circle for the duration of the film. One can’t help but feel like they are part of this group. One can’t help but want to.
The story itself is not quite the regular coming of age staple. It runs deeper and deals with characters that are flawed and struggling. It shows high school as a time of depression and a time of hope. It puts a face to the darkness that some people have to hurdle in order to be normal. It is not for the faint of heart.
It is a story of love but not just the romantic kind but also one that springs from deep understanding and empathy and shows the wallflower in a positive light. It is a story of loyalty and friendship that inspires people, teens and adults alike to overcome their demons as these young people have.
The movie’s story deviates somewhat from the novel, perhaps due to cinematic restrictions, but it was still able to communicate Charlie’s life completely, albeit with smaller focus on his family, which took up a huge chunk of the novel’s backstory. The ending though, is more definitive than the novel’s open ending, so audiences might like that.
One other thing, the soundtrack was kickass. When I was reading the book, I had to research each song as it popped up (I think I may be of the same generation as Charlie but there were songs I was unfamiliar with) but hearing them being used in the specific scenes totally brought the novel to life.
All in all, a poignant film that has no sense of artifice and false bravado — just a barebones chronicling of the life of a troubled teen who had his fair shake of tragedies and triumphs. It connects with the audience in a different level whether or not one has read the novel or not. There’s just something about this film that clicks. I can’t put a name to it. All I can say is that it makes me feel infinite — and it has just earned a place in my list of favorite movies.