Many great films have been adapted from books but whether the story lives better through a novel or a film is the true debate. According to Louis Giannetti, there are three relationships between a novel and film: “”loose””, the film is not true to the story, “”faithful””, the film stays true to the story, and “”literal””, closely related with plays but is impossible in cinematic form. Depending on how true or “”faithful”” the film adaptation is to the novel relies on the films fate for success. Some film adaptations are considered to be equally as good as the novel. An example of a great novel turned great movie is The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Author Chbosky himself also directed the film which called for a smooth conversion.
The book, The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, is a coming of age story of a 15 year old boy named Charlie, who is starting freshman year of highschool. He is shy and quiet. Charlie is the “”Wallflower”” of this story. We later learn that Charlie recently lost his best friend who committed suicide, and is still dealing with other issues of his past which puts Charlie at a very hard and confusing stage of his life. Not only does he have to deal with being a freshman in highschool and not having many friends but he lost people very close to him. He also was diagnosed PTSD. Although Charlie is an introvert, he’s a good observer and is very aware of his surroundings. The entire book is written as letters from Charlie to his “”friend””, meaning us, the readers. Early in the book, Charlie befriends two seniors who are step siblings, Sam and Patrick. After meeting them, Charlie is introduced to a whole new side of life as he experiences new things both good and bad including parties, drugs, sex, highschool, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, family issues, drama, tragic loss, love, and growing up.
The cinematic adaptation of Perks of being a Wallflower was also written and directed by Chbosky. The film follows the same story of the book, however, with some slight Character changes. The book depicts Charlie as this inexperienced, emotional, and sheltered 15 year old highschool freshman, while in the film Charlie is being portrayed by actor Logan Lerman, who in real life is a lot older than the character he is playing, which made Charlie’s character seem way more mature than presented in the novel. This also might have something to do with the obvious fact that in the film we aren’t only witnessing the point of view of Charlie like we do in the one-sided letters of the book. The film allows us to actually see Charlie interacting with his friends and others like we assume he does in the book, but also as the film’s narrator we also know what is going on in his head at the same time. Since the book is only through Charlie’s eyes, it’s interesting to see the personality the other character’s are given through the film adaptation. For example, in the book, we know the character Patrick through Charlie as his best friend. We are aware of what is going on with Patrick, his character being spontaneous, carefree, funny, helpful by giving Charlie advice, but throughout the book we learn other things about him like being called “”nothing”” by everyone in school, and his situation with Brad that leads to him and Charlie switching roles as Patrick seeks support from Charlie. We learn all of these things about Patrick, but only through Charlie’s point of view, and although Charlie is very observant he is still ignorant to the unhealthy predicament Patrick is putting himself through with his relationship with Brad. In the film, however, we are able to actually witness the downward spiral he goes through and wanting to physically and mentally get away from his situation, as well as more of Patrick’s quirky personality in the beginning that the actor portraying him, Ezra Miller, adds to the character. Another major difference I noticed was from the film, we don’t know much about Charlie’s immediate family other than they are all of a sudden religious, while in the book Charlie states his family wasn’t very religious. I thought maybe Chbosky did this in order to give the audience an idea of what kind of family Charlie stemmed from but from a different perspective than the book, also there is no mention of Charlie’s racist grandfather in the film. These changes as well as other minor changes in the film, such as the suicidal poem for Patrick’s Christmas present being taken out, or the song switch from Fleetwood Mac’s “”Landslide”” to “”Heroes”” by David Bowie during the tunnel scene, all separated the book from the movie but never steered away from the story and remained true to the plot.
The book and the film are very similar, there are scenes from the film that are extremely similar to the events in the book even using the exact lines from the book. Some of the lines straight from the book that are heard in the film, for example, “”we accept the love we think we deserve”” (Chbosky 24) said by Bill, Charlie’s English teacher, in the film and book. “”I feel infinite”” (Chbosky 33) and “”In that moment we were infinite”” (Chbosky 39) said by Charlie. “”So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be”” (Chbosky 2) also said by Charlie. “”You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand. You’re a wallflower”” (Chbosky 37) said by Patrick. Just to list a few.
One thing I noticed as something that is lost in the transition from novel to film is we don’t get to see Charlie’s full development and growth in character in the movie like we see it in the book. In the book, we are reading letters that Charlie has written. In the beginning of the book, his letters start off very choppy, unclear, and is filled with punctuation errors and run-on sentences. As you keep reading, however, you start to notice a change in the way Charlie writes. His writing matures and his sentences become more organized and structured. Charlie has improved in his writing because his mentor/English teacher, Bill, challenges him to do so. Charlie’s growth in writing relates to his own growth as a person. As his writing matures, he himself also matures throughout the book.
Although there are a few differences between the book and the film, the film was definitely a faithful adaptation. This was no surprise to me that the film would stay loyal to the book since Stephen Chbosky not only wrote the book but wrote and directed the movie as well. The characters and the major events that happen in Charlie’s life all stayed true to the text in the book.
Cinematic adaptation of books always lead to the debate of which one turned out better. People who actually have knowledge on both the book and the film usually come to the conclusion that if the movie was true to the book it was a successful adaptation. I believe not only was the film successful in this way, but the switch from Charlie’s letters to actual interactions with the characters and showing more of the side of other characters besides Charlie also made the film more likable, which is completely different from the way the novel is set up. I think instead of trying to just recreate the novel, Chbosky wanted to turn the one-sided story into something more dimensional and complex. By making these changes, it allows for more audience connection to the film. People can find relations to not only Charlie but other characters too, as there personalities are being revealed to us through the actors on the screen.