...that is until I watched it and walked away from the theater with a stupid grin.
'Perks,' the book, is a very simple read written in a minimalist style. You can read it in one sitting. The story is simple - a coming-of-age story where the protagonist, Charlie, a very shy 15-year-old, tries to find himself in the hostile social climate of his first year in high school...and then he met friends who let him in (Surprise! Surprise!) The concept is not that original. We have read about it, watched about it (like a lot), but what makes this particular story really special?
This book's strength lies in sentimentality. It is a very intimate and personal read, and if you're a shy and socially awkward guy or girl, you could easily identify with Charlie's character from the very first lines alone. I know I did. There are these big ideas, crucial even, that are delivered in a simple, straight-forward way, and how a confused teenager would muse them. It somehow reminds me of the things I used to muse about when I was growing up; back to the time before the advent of the internet, to the world of mix tapes, handwritten letters, and 90's love songs. I made a list of the books Charlie was reading and currently building up a Charlie playlist (Asleep by the Smiths and Landslide by Fleetwood Mac are my favorites). Funny, sometimes dark, and full of heart, 'Perks' is one of those books you wish you have read back in the times of your youth.
Now that it is now translated into a film, it's impossible not to compare the two media. Fortunately, I am done with my "book purist" phase, so the risk of being disappointed has gone down.
One thing that worked for this film was the screenplay, and there was no better person to write it for the big screen than the author itself, Stephen. Being a movie buff, I do think the greatest movies are the ones that were directed and written by the same person, Dancer in the Dark (2000) by Lars von Trier and Memento (2000) by Christopher Nolan to name a few. I think the novel being an epistolary and its simplistic style gave Stephen a breathing space to work with, like the story now could breathe in film - the pieces left to the imagination are projected before your eyes.
Chbosky's characters are so colorful, and full of personality. The main cast really did a great job. But one of them really stood out - Patrick (Ezra Miller). He is simply epic! Who would've thought he was the same psycho kid from Let's Talk About Kevin (2011) and made Tilda Swinton's life a living hell? In the book, he was very subtle as a gay character, but in this movie, he was gayest as can be! He's a very versatile actor. Let's now talk about her sister. I WANT TO talk about Sam, played by Emma Watson. :) I am very thankful that she played the role; otherwise, I would've just resorted to waiting for a decent download. The first time she appeared on the screen, I swear I was grinning from ear-to-ear, teeth reflecting light from the screen. Anyway, watching her movies as the witty, beautiful witch Hermione in the Harry Potter films, and seeing her now taking on a different role (without an English accent!), I think she has really matured in her craft. Logan Lerman (Charlie), at the other end, really redeemed himself with this one after that 'Lightning Thief' stint. I have read from somewhere that he actually locked himself in his room for weeks to get an idea of what's it like being 'alone.' And it was worth it. He gave a brilliant performance. The "snow angel" scene was powerful. It takes only a few frames, but the way he spread his arms and how pain was etched on his face...I really felt like he wanted to escape, to disappear.
I am very particular with music, especially with films. Music is a form of art more potent when set along brilliant photography. The tunnel scene was beautifully shot. But there is one scene, at the party when he was hallucinating (?), when everything appeared psychedelic. I like how the music and the pace of the images lengthened and stretched the moment. I somehow doubt that that is how it feels like or looks like, being drugged. Michael Brook's score is post-rocky. Post-rock is a beautiful genre of music. Here is the track list for the OST. Will someone leak this already!? This soundtrack makes you really nostalgic.
1. The Samples - Could It Be Another Change
2. Dexys Midnight Runners - Come On Eileen
3. Galaxie 500 - Tugboat
4. New Order - Temptation
5. The Innocence Mission - Evensong
6. The Smiths - Asleep
7. Cracker - Low
8. Sonic Youth - Teenage Riot
9. XTC - Dear God
10. Cocteau Twins - Pearly-Dewdrops' Drops
11. Michael Brook - Charlie's Last Letter
12. David Bowie – Heroes.
Anyway, this film is feel-good and awesome and all, but if I were the director I would've made a few changes: (1) I would've cut the last few frames and let it all end with Charlie, arms outstretched at the tunnel at the crescendo of Michael Brook's last score. It would've been much better if the screen went dark and your lungs are filled with air...and then you exhale. (2) Too many kisses, especially between Sam and Charlie. It somehow diminishes the significance of their first kiss.
I think that's all about it Whew. It feels good to let it all out of my system. 'Perks' garnered an 80% Certified Fresh rating in Rotten Tomatoes :) I really don't recommend this. Haha.