Five years ago my friend Danny recommended a book to me. He told me that it was ‘the new Catcher’ knowing that it would launch us into one of our spirited debates on why you should never compare anything with Salinger. Once it was settled I put The Perks Of Being A Wallflower on my reading list and just after Christmas that year I read it in two days. I’ve read it every year since. It is one of those scary books that carefully encapsulates how you feel when you’re alone and vulnerable, how the human mind turns, and how we don’t think anyone could get under that and feel it too.
Around this time last year it was announced that Perks had been green-lit to go into production. Danny and I were both skeptical until we learnt that Chbosky (the book’s writer) would be writing the screenplay, producing and directing. I can’t think of any writer who has managed to pull this feat off before, but feel free to correct me. When the leads were announced we were split on whether it would transfer to film, and how close to our imaginings it could be. That’s often the problem with book to film adaptations, they fall short and they aren’t how you pictured it. I had doubts about Emma Watson, thinking that she had only been chosen as a buzz actor following the last of the Harry Potter film franchise. Danny wasn’t happy that Percy Jackson (of Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief) would be playing our beloved Charlie.
In November last year Danny passed away. It was very sudden and I am still reality checking on a daily basis and wondering how that could have happened. That’s all I want to say on the subject for the time being.
At Danny’s funeral his friend Sam read from Perks, the speech about feeling infinite when they drive through the tunnel. Each time I read the book I think of being sat in a crematorium in Southend and hearing those words echoing out. It was haunting before but now it rips my heart up each time.
When the film was finally released my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go and see it. I said that I needed to. She suggested that we buy a ticket for Danny as well, in memory. I said that I wanted Sam to come and we booked a date.
From the opening credits my heart started thudding. The film had been built up so much inside my head and by the events of the previous year that it felt odd that the day had actually arrived when I could sit in a darkened cinema and watch the film we had talked about so much. As soon as Charlie started speaking tears started rolling down my cheeks and I sat perfectly still, trying to keep as quiet as possible, it was exactly as I had pictured.
There were some scenes in particular that looked how I had imagined them, including the placement of the characters and the details of the rooms, it was incredibly accurate. When it came to the tunnel scene I was amazed to discover the song that was used. I won’t say what it is because it wouldn’t be the same as if you were there, but it’s a song that I love and it was perfect. In the book Charlie doesn’t ever reveal what the song they heard on that night was, but the fact Chbosky was in charge of the whole project makes me assume that it was what was intended from the first draft.
The cast are absolutely spot on. I don’t think I could fault anyone but Ezra Miller in particular was superb. I’ll be amazed if he isn’t in everything from here on in, a complete turn around from We Need To Talk About Kevin, but I guess that’s acting. Paul Rudd was also excellent as Mr Anderson, despite the fact he was definitely referred to by his first name in the book.
I don’t know where Danny is now. I’m not a particularly religious person, although I would say I were a spiritual one. I hope he was there last night. I hope he appreciated the fact that it wasn’t him that had to organise us going out for once. I hope it was how he had pictured it as well and I wish he could come back.