It’s somewhat rare for a novelist to direct and bring his novel to the screen, but with the film “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” Stephen Chbosky does both, and succeeds brilliantly. I’ve just ordered the book; it’s that great a story. The main character Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, is an outcast as he tries, sometimes better, sometimes worse, to manage his mental illness. Charlie makes friends with his English teacher who gives him seminal works of fiction to read and discuss, but Charlie is not happy with his one friend, simply because his only friend is a teacher and not a fellow student. Charlie is slow in learning the lingo that would help him fit in, but two seniors, Sam and Patrick, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller, befriend him, and his world opens up quite suddenly and dramatically. It is a story jam-packed with teen angst and crushes, yet the movie is careful not to wallow in a mode of alienation. Charlie’s life becomes a lot more complicated with his new friends, but he finally finds happiness of a sort. One of the characters at one point says directly, “Don’t make yourself small.” The message: we accept the love we think we deserve.

The characters attempt to navigate and float above the murky waters of adolescence. Patrick gets into a gay relationship with the captain of the football team, and things start to go badly because their two worlds are so far apart. In frustration, Patrick announces, “My life is officially an after-school special.” Basically, the movie reinforces the notion that we all just want to be loved. The implicit thought asks the question as to why we pick people who treat us as if we don’t matter.

“Perks of Being a Wallflower” proves that we cannot choose where we come from, but we can choose where we go from there.

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