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And like the best John Hughes films, Perks treats its characters appropriately. They are not annoyingly wise beyond their years, nor are they looked down upon. “I set out to respect what young people go through right at eye level,” Chbosky says. The subtle period setting was also deliberate. “I wanted the movie to feel as absolutely timeless as possible. One of my favorite movies is Dead Poets Society. It takes place in 1959, but it could have taken place last year.”
What is most surprising, however, is the treatment of Sam and Patrick, who under the control of any other auteur could have turned into stock Manic Pixie Dream Girl / Manic Pixie Dream Gay characters whose only role in the film is to guide young Charlie (played by Logan Lerman) into emotional maturity via their own quirks and precociousness. With Emma Watson and Ezra Miller in those roles, however, Sam and Patrick offer up more than the pretty looks of the actors portraying them. Watson’s Sam is glorious and tragic, already full of regret at eighteen and striving to overcome the mistakes of her very recent past. In Patrick, Miller delivers a surprising confidence and a recognizable vulnerability, a combination not seen in most gay male characters, much less those still in high school.