Dear Stephen: A wallflower on the infinite perks of The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Dear friend (or can I call you Stephen, Mr.  Chbosky?),

I’m writing you today because I want you to know how much you’ve meant to me. And because, after all these years together, I know you’ll listen.

I’d like to start off with a thank you. When no else understood me, or my admittedly wallflowery ways, in high school, you and Charlie — the shy, emotional protagonist of your book and now, star of your movie of the same name, The Perks of Being a Wallflower — did. In those moments when I didn’t want to participate in social scenarios because I was deathly scared of being rejected by faux friends for being my ‘”awful,” “ugly” and undeserving self, you were there to make me rethink my decision, not to mention my self-destructive way of thinking. (But not too much — because then that would defeat the purpose.) And in those moments when I did feel the tiniest bit infinite, for whatever warped little reason (my hair looked good, I got an A on a test I studied my ass off for, I saw a new Zac Efron movie, I drank a really good milkshake), you assured me that what I was feeling was warranted and deserved.

Our intense friendship carried on even as I began to change and you stayed the oh-so-lovely same. As I entered university, leaving every single one of my high school friends behind to start completely anew, I took even more comfort in the ever-underlined, ever-dogeared pages of Perks, finding my self-confidence in young Charlie’s brave tale of self-discovery and self-acceptance through real, true friends. Although I’m not sure anyone could measure up to Charlie’s Patrick and Sam, with his and your guidance, I found some pretty damn special new confidants, ones which both took me as my occasionally withdrawn self and pushed me out of it when the time was right. With you two boys by my side, this wallflower was actually growing at her own, less purposefully stunted, pace. And she continues to.

Our flourishing relationship faltered slightly when I heard that you were going to take Charlie to Holden Caulfields’ least favourite place, the movies. While I had grown to trust you with, well, my life, I wasn’t sure what the hell you were thinking. I thought to myself, How could such a wonderfully and pointedly introspective book, with its emotionally harrowing twist, translate on the big screen?  But then I heard that you had full reins with the project, choosing to not only write the screenplay, but also direct the thing. And then I saw the film at its world premiere at TIFF back in September of 2012.

There’s a line in the Perks book where bookworm Charlie notes, “Sometimes I read a book, and I think I am the people in that book.”  I couldn’t get that statement out of my head the night after I took in Perks the film, emerging from the Ryerson Theatre a weeping, smiling mess. When I read the book for the first time, I felt like Charlie did reading To Kill a Mockingbird, A Separate Peace and the countless other classics Bill gave him, connecting with his character on an uncanny, almost uncomfortable level. When I watched the movie for the first time, I felt exactly the same way. Because Logan Lerman was so perfectly Charlie and so was your carefully crafted, lovingly faithful, but not conceited, script. And therefore, it all felt so very, very Emily.

Sure, you cut some of my favourite parts of the book out to fit a decent run time and slightly miscast Emma Watson as Sam, but the things you did right, you did so goddamn right. You kept with the time period, throwing Lerman’s Charlie and Co. straight into the early ’90s. You made “Heroes” (by David Bowie) Charlie’s mysterious “infinite” song (as if it could have been anything else!). You treated Charlie’s fragile relationship with his Aunt Helen, with both tenderness and brutal honesty. You didn’t shy away from getting intimate with Patrick (the stellar, Oscar worthy Ezra Miller) and secret boyfriend Brad, or rough with Candace (Nina Dobrev) and her not-so-great boyfriend, Ponytail Derek.  And you made sure The Smiths’  “Asleep” (a.k.a. Charlie’s all-time favourite song) was played as much as humanly possible (which is, as we know, is never enough). You thought it all over in such minute detail, as Charlie would have at the beginning, but also went for it full force, as Charlie vowed to do in the end.

I know I’ve already quoted your words back at you, but I’m going to do it again, because, well, I think they’re brilliant. Also, I think they fit this moment like a specially tailored Christmas suit. I’m talking about that line that features heavily in both the film and the movie, and in both cases, both breaks and warms you heart. You know the one: “We accept the love we think we deserve.”

I hope that you’re feeling infinite amounts of love right now, friend. Because I think you deserve every single stitch of it. And I’d like to hope that despite the Academy’s blindness (no Best Adapted Screenplay nod?!), you think you do too.

Love and thanks always,



The Perks of Being a Wallflower hits DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, Feb. 12.

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