The Perks of Being a Wall? ower: Context Analysis Paper ! Stephen Chbosky, a 29 year-old ? lm director and screenwriter published his ? rst semi-autobiographical novel in 1991, The Perks of Being a Wall? ower. He later directed the movie in 2011 and released it in October 2012. The central theme of the story revolves around the struggle to understand the terrible things that inevitably happen to those we love and to ourselves. It unfolds through a series of letters written by the main character, Charlie, addressed to us, the reader, that detail his painful yet joyous freshman year of high school. Chbosky frames the ? m only loosely in this way, preferring showing over telling — we never see Charlie talking to the camera. The novel has been a “backlist staple for the publisher, consistently selling between 70,000 and 100,000 copies in paper each year through the outlets recorded by Nielsen BookScan” (C. J. , 2012). According to Anthony Ziccardi, v-p and deputy publisher of Simon & Schuster, “it has always been a big seller in the college market.
” The movie tie-in edition, with the lead actors on the front cover, sells just as frequently as the original. It’s do doubt that the rhetor of Perks of Being a Wall? wer hit success with his novel, but the movie proves to do the same. ! This striking theme and complex plot of a typical, teen “problem” story doesn’t dwell on a divorce or accidental pregnancy. This story has “developed a cult following it” as a teen reader responds how it does more, “it reminded me of me and my friends, totally and completely” (Spitz, 1999). The ? lm functions similarly. It’s unique yet edgy, which makes it different and relatable at the same time. Even though Chbosky studied ? lm speci? cally, his ? rst novel was a huge success. This single literary work in erotic ? ction transforms marvelously onto the big screen.
I think that his ? lm background is largely to thank for this. Not many writers can direct their own movies. Chbosky’s young age and talent allow him to reach a young adult audience in a way many cannot. I believe that he created this work of rhetoric, the ? lm as well as the novel, to portray a stark realness to the story of a coming-of-age 15 year-old boy where so many can relate. ! Mr. Mudd Productions, producers of Juno, sought to hire Chbosky to create the ?lm adaption. The producers of the ? lm, John Malkovich, Lianna Halfon, and Russell Smith then hired him to write the adapted screenplay and to direct the ? lm.
Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller starred in the ? lm. The production even waited for Emma Watson to ? nish with Harry Potter before beginning. The ? lm was shot in the Pittsburgh area from May 9, to June 29, 2011 and set in the early 1990s. A few scenes from the characters’ adventures with the The Rocky Horror Picture Show were ? lmed at The Hollywood Theater in Dormont. Chbosky had seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show when he was younger in that theater and found out it was reopening, so requested to rent it for ? lming (Fischer, 2011). ! Interestingly, the novel was semi-autobiographical. In an interview with Tara
Aquino, Chbosky explains that it was always intended to become a movie and “thought of the title 21 years ago” (Aquino, 2012). Though it was always his plan to write a produce a great narrative, what made him begin writing in the ? rst place was initially a bad break up. He needed something to give himself hope. Charlie, the main character, struggled similarly in trying to answer the question of why good people allow themselves to be treated less than what they deserve. Throughout the writing process, Chbosky was able to ? nd a better place. The audience is coming-of-age young adults. He was able to hit his audience perfectly.
So many people still come up to him and let him know how much the books helped them in hard times to not feel alone. That reward alone is enough Chbosky claimed and helps him “feel far more connected to people than he ever did” (Aquino, 2012). Though many producers wanted to take over the adaption of The Perks of Being a Wall? ower, Chbosky couldn’t let it go. The casting was very important to Chbosky, because he wanted not only people that reminded him of his own life but also generous and real people. He met with Emma Watson once and knew she was a perfect character for Sam, exploring the wilder side of herself.
The main character, cast as Logan Lerman, is actually really con? dent in real life. Chbosky wanted to have him audition as Patrick at ? rst, be Lerman knew he wanted Charlie. Finally, Ezra Miller’s charismatic personality put him as Patrick. ! Stephen Chbosky and Logan Lerman certainly shared a bond. Chbosky put a lot of faith in Lerman to embody a character that Chbosky sees in himself. He said their relationship developed quickly and evolved over time. He recalls a photograph of the two of their backs, and “what’s amazing is—I had no idea this was happening—we both have roughly the same posture, and we started to meld.
I don’t know if he was getting things from me or if it was just a natural kind of camaraderie, but it de? nitely happened” (Aquino, 2012). Chbosky even remembers how special it was on the set for these actors who have never had a proper prom or graduation to experience these things on and off-screen. Chbosky shared one of the most locations of ? lming with the three cast members the ? rst night of ? lming. He took them through the Fort Pitt Tunnel which brought them closer “but also made them understand [his] vision for the movie and how beautiful [he] felt the movie was” (Aquino, 2012). I think this is an extremely mportant moment for Chbosky in really expressing what the story of The Perks of Being a Wall? ower means to him by letting the kids feel it for themselves. Watching the actors come together and be there for each other in the short time they had for ? lming really gave him a sense of contentment that they were becoming the characters he remembers years ago during his hard, yet joyous days. I believe that all young adults who have either read the book or watched the ? lm can connect with these characters. Chbosky’s number one goal was to help people with or without friends not feel so alone. The actors played a huge role in the ? m’s success for achieving that by staying true to Chbosky’s vision in the novel and carrying over its dif? cult and confusing reality to the big screen. ! As mentioned before, the novel earned great success, before and after the ? lm. Entertainment Weekly gave the ? lm of an average ‘B’ rating. A reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, Amy Biancolli, applauds the ? lm for steering away from “following certain narrative conventions so closely, that we think we know what’s coming around every bend. With The Perks of Being a Wall? ower, when something different hits us, the impact leaves a bruise” (Biancolli, 2012).
This ? lm ? nds an unexpected freshness in the old cliches by remaining attentive to all that happens within and between unhappy teenagers. One of the ? lm’s major critiques is that it isn’t strong on plot — all of the energy and likability doesn’t sustain the movie’s second half, which tries to present wishful fantasies as sort of realistic developments. Also, the lead character is frustratingly passive at times. Sometimes an inexperienced ? lmmaker can use a helping hand from his cast. Luckily, Stephen Chbosky got that from Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller and Emma Watson in the adaptation of the popular novel.
This was only Chbosky’s second time in the director’s chair, and like his main character, he’s a little unsteady on his feet. I think this in an interesting comparison, because thanks to Chbosky’s stars, the ? lm — like the book — sets itself apart from other comedy-drama coming-of-age ? lms as a smartly observed study of a troubled teen’s ? rst year in high school. When Charlie is distant, the camera remains as a ? y on wall. As he becomes more engaged, the camera draws closer to him and his friends, creating real intimacy between viewer and characters. The ? m, just like the novel, succeeds so well because of the connection and relation between Chbosky and his characters. So though Chbosky is new to the industry, in a way, the ? lm is able to develop better because of that. Also, the ? lm lacks necessary creativity to be considered a classic. NY Daily News says that, “though the ? lm is set in early ’90s Pittsburgh, it’s lacking the creative details required of a classic. And the ones we do get tend to feel off: Would Sam and Patrick, vinyl devotees who adore The Smiths, really be so entranced by Dexys Midnight Runners and so mysti? d by David Bowie? ”
Other than lacking experience and a few creative details, critiques commend Chbosky on recreating a unique narrative on the pleasures of friendship and the wisdom gained from adolescent misery. ! Stephen Chbosky, the semi-autobiographical writer and director of The Perks of Being a Wall? ower, creates an artifact worth watching. This being his ? rst novel and second time as a director, the 29 year-old produces the novel and ? lm to reach a troubled young adult audience to remind them that they are not alone. He does so by closely selecting his characters for the ? m adaption and, more so, mirroring his central character’s emotional state. Chbosky primary mission succeeds: To show how loneliness can become companionship, and to acknowledge that by surviving together, we can rise above adolescent despair. The Perks of Being a Wall? ower has a kind quality almost unheard of in American movies of this genre.