From left, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ezra Miller in “Perks.” (John Bramley/Summit Entertainment)

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” — the film based on Stephen Chbosky’s epistolary guidebook to adolescence — opens today in wide release.

Anyone familiar with the book knows its pages are sprinkled heavily with pop cultural references to songs, films and TV shows from both the early ’90s era in which the story is set and beyond. The references are so prevalent, they could rightfully be described as another character in the narrative.

But how many of them made their way into what I describe in this review as a largely faithful adaptation of Chbosky’s work? Here’s a partial rundown.

“Asleep,” by the Smiths

Is it in the movie?: Yes.

Fans of the book will be relieved to know that Charlie (Logan Lerman), our gentle-yet-troubled protagonist, remains a rabid mix-tape maker in the movie, as he was in the book. (There’s a particularly delightful moment where he’s dubbing tape-to-tape and runs out of room on one side of his cassette, prompting him to curse and some audience members (read: me) to have massive mix-tape-composing flashbacks.)

Of all the songs mentioned in the book, “Asleep,” by the Smiths, is the one that looms largest, its exceedingly dark lyrics almost scientifically designed for teenage brooding. If it had been omitted from the film, its absence would have been noticeably felt. Fortunately, it was not.

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Is it in the movie?: Yes.

The teen misfits of “Perks” are obsessed with “Rocky Horror” and perform it at midnight screenings throughout the book as well as the film.

For the record, Ezra Miller, who plays Patrick, makes an excellent Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

The many books Charlie reads

Are they in the movie?: Yes, some of them are.

Charlie’s English teacher — played in the movie by Paul Rudd — is constantly giving him extra-credit reading assignments, slipping him such classics as “The Great Gatsby” and “On the Road.”

Several, but not all, of them appear or are referenced in the film, including the two just mentioned and “The Catcher in the Rye.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life”

Is it in the movie?: No.

Though Charlie comments on the film in the book, it does not enter into the screen adaptation. There are some scenes that take place at Christmas, but most do not involve Charlie’s interactions with his family, including his response to watching this Frank Capra Christmas staple with them.


Is it in the movie?: No.

Though the book is set at the height of grunge’s popularity and both Patrick and Sam, played by Emma Watson, are huge fans of Kurt Cobain’s band, we don’t hear their music in the film. There is a passing reference to the Seattle scene, but that’s about it.

The “M*A*S*H” finale

Is it in the movie?: No.

Charlie relays a significant story in the book about his memories of watching the final episode of the Korean War series with his family, an experience that carries great significance to him. It’s not in the movie, though. Of all the elements in the novel, his relationship with his parents and siblings is the one given shortest cinematic shrift.

Penn State

Is it in the movie?: Yes.

Sam is desperate to go to Penn State, and Charlie’s older brother plays football for the team. These details were so crucial to the Pittsburgh-set book that they remain in the film, even though the mention of the university outside of the story’s 1990s context may call to mind the Jerry Sandusky scandal. To the film’s credit, most will think of this for only a millisecond and then refocus.

“Heroes,” by David Bowie

Is it in the movie?: Yes.

Ah, trick question: Bowie’s classic was not mentioned in the book, but it provides the soundtrack for two related, signature scenes in “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” making it as crucial to this tale of teens discovering love and liberty as that aforementioned somber Smiths song.

More on ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’:

Review: A movie that makes you feel young again

Talking with writer-director Stephen Chbosky