The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman), a teenager struggling to fit in with those around him (including Emma Watson and Ezra Miller) while also dealing with traumatic memories from his past. It’s a rare film in that it manages to be very personal even as it speaks to so many people.
The disc contains two commentaries, one with writer/director Stephen Chbosky and another with six cast members plus Chbosky. I watched the film twice, back to back, with each of the commentaries, and the combination of experiencing it (mostly) free of dialogue, where actors’ expressions and the film’s editing tells the story while the creative team explores what the film meant to them has altered the movie for me in a profound way. I liked but didn’t love it upon first viewing, but as someone who watches way too many movies I know that sometimes a re-watch under different circumstances or in a different frame of mind can have a dramatic effect on how you receive a film. The fact that it happened to me while watching with the commentary track on is a definite first for me though.
Keep reading to see what I heard with this week’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower Commentary Commentary…
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
Commentators: Stephen Chbosky (director/writer) does a stand-alone, but he also does one with the actors Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman and Erin Wilhelmi
1. The commentary was recorded simultaneously via satellite with participants in Los Angeles, New York City and London.
2. Chbosky says the opening title sequence was inspired by two things… memories of sitting in a car as a kid looking out the back window, and the opening of Risky Business.
3. Simmons and Watson both kept their letter jackets after filming ended. “Hung up next to my Hermione Granger cloak,” explains Watson.
4. Chbosky educates most of the actors present by sharing that Tom Savini is a special effects genius who’s worked with George Romero and many others. “He could really pretend to kill me,” says Miller.
5. Watson invited Paul Rudd for a home-cooked meal and was impressed that he came, ate everything she put before him and then spent the rest of the evening making plasticine figures. “He’s also a classically trained Shakespearean actor,” she adds. “He’s a proper thesp.”
6. Chbosky wrote a seven-page history of the main character’s family history just for his own knowledge during shooting.
7. One of Chbosky’s goals with his novel and film was to “show all the highs and all the lows and all the secrets that young people have and keep.” He wanted to talk about “how when problems exist in families and you don’t root them out they repeat themselves.”
8. Patrick and Sam’s dance at the Homecoming (to “Come on Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners) was choreographed by Miller and Watson in under an hour.
9. Watson’s bodyguard for many years is an ex-NYPD cop named Denise, and she appears in the film as a teacher dancing next to Rudd.
10. Lerman used to go to the Playboy Mansion when he was 12 years old thanks to a friend’s dad who knew Hugh Hefner.
11. Watson had never made a milkshake before the scene where her character makes a milkshake.
12. Chbosky comments that people have questioned how the teens wouldn’t know David Bowie’s “Heroes” and explains that when he himself was a teen Bowie was known only as “the ‘Let’s Dance’ guy.”
13. It was a single line in the script that sold Watson 100% on taking the role… “We accept the love we think we deserve.”
14. Chbosky’s favorite scene in the film is the one where Sam kisses Charlie to ensure it’s from someone who loves him. He feels it sums up the movie’s theme that people who survive bad things can turn those experiences into something beautiful either in their own lives or by helping others.
15. Chbosky claims “jag-off” is a Pittsburgh term, but as someone who grew up in Rochester, NY I can confirm they have no claim on the insult.
16. John Malkovich (who produced the film) told Chobsky that he loved the script because it has real heart, “and because it has heart you don’t need sentiment.”
17. The leads all shared the floor of a motel during filming and spent many nights choosing talks over sleep.
18. Watson feels the film was the perfect springboard for her after Harry Potter because it opened her to what she could do onscreen. She was terrified doing press for the film because she felt she had been so bottled up previously. “It set me free,” she says, adding that it gave her so much confidence going forward.
19. This is the only commentary I’ve ever listened to that ends with applause. Not from me, mind you, but from the cast to the writer/director.
Best in Commentary
Ezra Miller: “Do you guys remember when one of the cheerleaders killed a bat?”
Stephen Chbosky: “When you’re a kid in Pittsburgh and you grow up and you want to make movies there is one man who rises above all others, and that is George Romero.”
I listened to both commentaries, and they’re both worthwhile. The group one can be tough as there are too many people talking over each other at times, but it’s also a warm and friendly look at a filmmaker and his cast who truly bonded over the course of making a movie. They’re fun, lively and appreciative of each other and the experience. Chbosky is an engaging and emotional speaker on his solo track, and he actually makes the film even more enjoyable through his insights and personal affectations. He’s also incredibly repetitive including pointing out his “favorite scene” about a dozen times, at a dozen different scenes… and yet you believe that he’s telling the truth each time.
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