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Flowers for Charly, too
wry-catcher11 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Contains Spoilers

Charly, a movie directed by Ralph Nelson in 1968 and adapted from the novel Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, is a moving case study of what could happen to a mentally retarded person who suddenly becomes a genius. Cliff Robertson won an Academy Award for Best Actor as he portrays Charly Gordon, a 30 year retarded man who has an IQ of 56. Charly's life is a simple one, yet he continually strives to improve it both socially and intellectually.

As the movie begins, Charly is working as a janitor in a bakery and going to night classes. In the evening, where Charly attends school, he is selected to participate in an experimental scientific research project that will improve his intellect. His teacher, Alice Kinnian, played by Claire Bloom, is very protective of Charly and he, as her pupil, does everything she asks of him. Prior to the surgery, Charly competes against a mouse, Algernon, to see who can get to the center of a maze first. Charly is dismayed when the Algernon wins and, when he finds out that Algernon beat him because he has already undergone the experimental surgery, Charly decides that he wants to have the surgery too.

During the day, Charly does his best to fit in with the other employees at work. Unfortunately, they see Charly as a good-natured moron and they constantly find ways to tease and humiliate Charly. It seems that they do not think that they are harming him, as he appears oblivious to the fact that they are using him for their own amusement. One scene that stands out is when they allow him to work one of the machines and the dough in it overflows. As Charly tries to push it back into the machine, he gets completely covered by the dough. After his surgery, this scene is dramatically juxtaposed against a similar one as he unwittingly humiliates them when one of their schemes backfire because he learns how to operate a similar machine in a few minutes.

Together, these two scenes create the most poignant moments in the film, in my opinion. While they laugh heartily at Charly's failures, they are dumbfounded and disheartened at his success. I believe that they felt better about themselves when they felt superior to Charly. However, when they could no longer make him the butt of their jokes, they become almost fearful of him and he loses their friendship. This is a very dramatic way of saying that it is very lonely at the top and gives insight to how those who are intellectually gifted are treated and how they feel. To further illustrate this, Charly is dismissed from his job after he shows the plant manager how the bakery could save a lot of money by improving its production. Just as the other employees became wary after Charly's intellect blossoms, the manager seems equally threatened by Charly and fires him.

Charly's intellect grows, he becomes an insatiable learner and reads books by the dozens. He also becomes enamored with his teacher, but he is emotionally unprepared when she refuses his advances. In dealing with this rejection, Charly leaves town and travels all over the country on a motorcycle, encountering many different types of experiences so that he can mature emotionally. Eventually, he wins over his teacher and they begin a romantic relationship.

Upon his return to town, he is informed that Algernon has lost his intellectual capacity and, ultimately, died. Knowing that this will happen to him as well, Charly embarks on a quest to prevent this from happening. He learns everything that the doctors know and begins his own research. Unfortunately, he discovers that it is not possible to inhibit the reversal of the downward process his intellect will experience. As he acknowledges that his own demise is inevitable, we are left to reflect upon whether each of us would want to be a shining star for a fleeting moment or a dusty moon that only reflects others' light.
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A Poignant Film!
Sylviastel3 March 2008
Cliff Robertson earned an Academy Award for playing the title role based on the novel by Daniel Keyes entitled "Flowers for Algernon." His portrayal is heartbreaking and you can't help but feel for the character who is the butt of so many jokes by his so-called colleagues and friends at his workplace, a bakery. Seinfeld's Barney Martin and Dick Van Patten play his co-workers. The divine Claire Bloom (who should be made a Dame) is the sympathetic attractive teacher. Ruth White plays the landlady in one of the last film roles before her death in 1969 from cancer. The setting is filmed on location in Boston, Massachusetts.
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You will never ever forget this movie
desbyrne6 October 2005
I saw this movie on TV when I was a child and while I don't remember every single plot detail, overall it made a lasting impression on me. So much so that I have been determined all these years to try and see this movie again.

I stumbled across the movie on TV and I clearly remember the highly emotional impact it made on me.

Thanks to IMDb I was able to keep searching for the title as I could best remember it and was thrilled when I discovered it here.

A truly stunning memorable movie - I only wish I could get it on DVD. Highly recommended.

When I think of all the dross I have watched over the years that is so forgettable, it is wonderful to return and discover a movie that captivate me so long ago and discover that I am not alone in rating it 10 out of 10!
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A beautiful film
waynepenner27 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"I want to be smarter, just so I could get a little closer, you know?" Charly Gordon

Made in the days when doctors smoked cigarettes, this is Cliff Robertson's brilliant portrayal of a man isolated from society by an IQ of 69 who through a brain operation becomes a genius.

Robertson won a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor in 1968 for his part in this wonderful and inspiring film, and it's a great movie, albeit on a "b-movie" budget. But entwined in its message is a dark reflection on how society treats people who are mentally handicapped.

Charly is the nicest guy you would ever meet, considerate of all, kind, but simple and naïve. Everyone around him either laughs at him or is condescending toward him. No one sees him as a man, not even a human being, just whatever they label him as - "dumb-assed janitor", or just plain "moron". Then he gets his operation and becomes the smartest man on Earth, but still he is labeled, and still he is isolated.

What I got most from this film is not a clinical study of mental retardation but the way society deals with mental retardation, and in this the film soars, and it will bring a tear or two if you have even a bit of humanity. It is a wonderful film, on many levels, testing us all on how we deal with those who are so unfortunate as to be mentally handicapped.

In "Charly", society doesn't win in the end, but the movie does! 9 out of 10.
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A warm yet cautionary tale
ziggy-2228 February 1999
A mildly mentally retarded man submits to a scientific experiment to increase his intelligence. Like "Frankenstein", "Charly" is a clever morality play about science that crosses certain boundaries. Unlike "Frankenstein", which took the horror route, "Charly" explores the emotional human tragedy that inevitably occurs when an experiment of this nature goes awry.

Many scientists back then and even today argue that the professional boundaries that were crossed in this story would never happen in real life. Yet with the recent successful gene manipulation and cloning experiments many believe it is only a matter of time, a very short time, before a human submits to such experiments.

The movie, of course, is not this clinical. Based on the classic novel, "Flowers for Algernon", the movie strikes a keen balance of warmth, comedy and tragedy. Cliff Robertson's fascinating portrayal of the main character is unforgettable. His delivery of the powerful speech at the scientific convention is just as stunning and eerily accurate today as it was over thirty years ago.

An emotional, touching drama, "Charley" still rings a cautionary bell. One that should be heard and not ignored as we enter the new millennium.
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An extremely thought-provoking, moving experience
carolyn_davis211 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I read Daniel Keyes' book, *Flowers for Algernon,* when aged nine and few books before or since have affected me as much. Surgical experimentation is frequently controversial and can be devastating in its consequences. Beyond the ethical issues are Algernon and Charly, one a mouse, the other, human, who are affected by a particular experiment -- Charly, especially, in a multitude of ways.

Robertson does extremely well in a particularly complex role. Throughout we see his humanity. His "transformation" is believable, and by the actor's skill, Charly is portrayed as a sympathetic Everyman in an extraordinary situation.

I give this film the highest recommendation.
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Think about this from a 1968 perspective
JDFeltz4 March 2012
I saw this movie at the drive-in when I was 12. I recall finding it to be a touching tragedy. I used to volunteer with "the special ed class", and found the students there to be gentle and grateful and affectionate, and could never understand how the other kids could make fun of them the way they did. But that only explains how and why this touched me personally, even at the age of 12.

Reviews some 30 years after this film was made are very critical, calling it 'schlock', and criticizing the simplification of a complex issue. However, over the last 30-40 years, society has become more enlightened about both mental retardation, but also about what science can and cannot do. It was easier to suspend belief and go with the concept.

At the time, this movie conveyed something new about how a mentally retarded person might view their situation....that alone made this film unique; lots of people never even considered the feelings of the mentally retarded, so this film surely opened some eyes.

And way ahead of it's time (I'm sure this was never considered in making the film), because it conveys the feelings and reactions of someone who is losing their intellectual capacity....such as those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's. At that time, little thought was given by the average person about the feelings of either the mentally retarded, or people with Alzheimer's or dementia.

I'm sure the book was better than the movie; that almost always goes without saying. However, movies reach audiences that books sometimes don't, and this movie reached a new audience.

I'm afraid too many reviewers are unable to see an older movie and not hold it to the same standards, socially, scientifically and a cinematography standpoint. Cinema has evolved, as has society and science, and it's quite interesting to watch "Charly" with that in mind.
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Excellent Movie!
donnyrussell24 June 2007
Cliff Robertson acting job for playing Charly Gordon is amazing. It is a must see movie, just for that reason alone. The movie shows what it is like to live in the world of a mentally handicapped person. It shows how our society treats those people. It shows how Charly changes into a well, and very intelligent person. It also shows the friendship Charly has with the mouse. Who is the first to have the brain operation. Which is designed to improve the function of the brain. Also it shows the love Charly develops for this teacher Clair. However in the conclusion. The brain operation which made him a mentally well person, is a failure in the end. Sad ending of the movie. However the movie is considered a classic in my mind. Very well put together, and very well acted. I haven't read the book, this movie is based on.
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"No One Would Ever Think Of Making Fun Of A Blind Person Or A Cripple, Why Would They Do It To A Moron?"
bkoganbing17 February 2009
After having done The Days Of Wine And Roses On the small screen and seeing Jack Lemmon get the part for the big screen, Cliff Robertson pulled a Katharine Hepburn. Like Kate the great who bought the screen rights to The Philadelphia Story and dictated the making of it to MGM, Robertson did the same for Charly which he had done on the US Steel Hour almost a decade earlier on television. He did better than Lemmon who only was nominated for Best Actor for Days Of Wine And Roses.

Charly is the story of an amiable mildly retarded man who works and supports himself in a job at a bakery, but also has agreed to become an experimental subject to scientists, Claire Bloom, Leon Janney, and Lilia Skala. Janney has a theory in which he feels that the proper enzyme given and an operation and Robertson could start to function like a normal person.

The operation has some foreseen and unforeseen consequences. One of them is that Robertson is one fully functioning male, but still lacks a whole lot of social skills. He forms an attachment to Bloom which is something she saw coming, but not necessarily her.

More important he becomes far more aware of the world around him and how badly treated he was by a lot of people. One role I very much liked was that of his landlady Ruth White who was a woman with a big heart who does value Robertson as a person and gives him the respect any of us is due.

Still the film belongs to Cliff Robertson who won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1968. Robertson had some stiff competition that year, but probably was helped by the fact that three of his competitors were British, Alan Bates for The Fixer, Ron Moody for Oliver, and Peter O'Toole for The Lion In Winter who if memory serves was the betting favorite. The other nominee was Alan Arkin for The Heart Is The Lonely Hunter. How he manages to go from a mildly retarded man to a person of no mean erudition is a wonderful process unfolding on the screen. Personally I think it ought to be required viewing in every acting class on the globe, the subtleties are something to behold.

I don't claim to be any kind of scientific expert on this or any other scientific matter, but I would love to hear from those who know more as to whether the whole theory is feasible or not. In any event though Charly is a fine picture with both a message and a heart.
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" Well how would you feel if you knew you were dumber than a mouse? "
thinker169129 January 2009
Perhaps it's wishful thinking, but there are many people who wish they could learn as much as anyone else. It's sad and downright tragic when you realize you're incapable of advancing common knowledge or higher education. Some are gifted, some are slow and some are just plain retarded and will never comprehend what is being taught. But what if there was a way? What if science could remedy what nature restricted in the human brain? That is the premise for the movie " Charly. " It tells the story of an adult retarded man named Charley Gordon (Cliff Robertson, 1968 Academy Award winner) who is mentally incapable of surmounting even simple challenges like spelling the word 'School.' Inside him is a deep desire to learn, but is mentally unable. That all changes when two brilliant scientists conceive of a medical procedure which can transform, first a mouse, then a human being into not only a educated individual, but a mental genius. Based on the novel "Flowers for Algernon" Cliff Robertson gives a brilliant and visually haunting performance of the retarded man who is suddenly transformed into a genius. Not only does he 'see' better than most, he's able to visualize what escapes even the most sophisticated in society. What he also sadly realizes is that 'increased intelligence equals loss of friends.' Beginning with the ability to learn and learn quickly, his advanced knowledge also unfortunately reveals his own future, a future he confronts the two doctors with. This is a must picture for anyone who'd like to see the man beat the mouse and yet have sympathy for both. A superb cast featuring Claire Bloom, Lilia Skala, Leon Janney and Dick Van Patten as Bert makes for a believable Classic movie. ****
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random_avenger19 July 2010
A mentally challenged man named Charly (Cliff Robertson) desires to become smarter so that he wouldn't always be picked on by his so-called friends at his workplace. However, he has made no progress despite his efforts of going to school. One day he gets a chance to undergo some experimental brain surgery and his intelligence skyrockets, making him a genius. Still, he cannot stop feeling like an outsider or find happiness with Alice, the woman he loves (Claire Bloom).

The director uses many split screens and other alienating techniques to portray the fragile mental state of Charly; at points they get rather annoying and look dated. The montage near the end, depicting the progression of Charly and Alice's relationship, comes across as rather hasty, considering the scene directly preceding it. Mostly the story advances fine though, and the pondering about the surgery's effects on Charly's psyche is interesting – there should have been more of it, actually. Robertson's Oscar-winning performance in the lead role is decent, although I preferred his calm 'intelligent Charly' to his naïve 'challenged Charly'.
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Trivializes the Book and Its Purpose
alexkolokotronis28 June 2009
Before watching Charly I had been told to avoid watching this film having just read the book. Of course I didn't do myself justice and decided to watch the film anyway. The film simply rushes through the whole storyline trying to fit too many themes in a minimum amount of opportunities in a mere hour and forty minutes.

As stated before the length of the film was much too short in order to get across the message in an efficient way let alone in a strong manner. This had a large indirect or maybe direct effect on the performance of that of Cliff Robertson who plays Charly. The transformation of his happens at lightning quick speed which undermines the book in not displaying the long and grueling process Charly had to face in which he was constantly being treated like a lab experiment. Also the way he deals with his feeling on loneliness and lack or respect is in no way the same as he did in the book which was much more understandable and seemingly much more realistic in the way Charly would have reacted. Instead in the movie he drives off and becomes wild and crazy without a second thought. A rushed script here leads easily to a rushed movie with glaring problems, even more so then the leading character.

Ralph Nelson, the director of this film, took the wrong approach here trying to have Charly change so drastically at such a fast pace. The transformation in itself is shocking enough. There is no need to further try and make the lead character undergo this rapid change because it takes away from the substance of the film and ultimately the rest of the film with it. The entire film rests on this one leading character and the director certainly displayed that challenge here, unfortunately it was not displayed in the way that it should have been.

I would not recommend this film especially if you read the book because it is filled with just to many contradictions throughout and faces its own themes in a overly simplistic way and method. The film fails miserably in trying to describe such a complex problem effectively and certainly doesn't give any answers in a precise or convincing manner. Sadly this film becomes a parody of itself.
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Flowers for Charly
nycritic24 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
CHARLY is an interesting movie to watch because its premise is the antithesis of the premise in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. Where in Michael Gondry's movie, Carrey undergoes a traumatic experiment where he erases his mind to get rid of the memory of his great love, Cliff Robertson, playing Charly Gordon, a mentally disabled man who works in menial labor, gets a major life change: an experiment to elevate his mental activity. While you may not see the parallels in both movies, I could.

Both processes are, essentially, brain damage. One of them causes terminal amnesia and even then it's not guaranteed because the two lovers -- Carrey and Winslet -- gravitate towards each other as if they were meeting for the first time. Charly's is a breakthrough: it opens the doors of not only his perception of the world and his placement in it, but to his heart because he is able to express his love for Alice Kinian, the woman who has been the link between him and the world of intelligence. The problem being that his newfound intelligence is temporary.

CHARLY as a movie feels of its time and much of the visual exposition -- split scenes, bright colors, and inserts -- are purely late Sixties. There is even a psychedelic romp that Charly indulges in that seems to be a precursor to EASY RIDER at some point, and his walk in the woods with Alice all but evokes the folksy music of soft rock bands like Bread. However, the science fiction aspect of the story is able to transplant it to any other time frame despite the fashions and the overall look: it could happen today with the advance of science-fact.

The one point where the movie falls short of being excellent is at the moment when Charly is told that he'll revert back to his former self. True, we're given glimpses here and there, but there is a much too abrupt ending that shows him back at a child's state, still dressed as a man, playing with children on a see-saw. I guess the people involved in the production thought it would have been too much for the movie-going public of 1968 to see Charly suffer the effects of his regression, leaving the movie with that one scene in which he tells Alice to leave him alone, followed by the closing playground scene.

Even so, CHARLY is full of beautiful, understated acting. Cliff Robertson is detailed in his characters idiocy, not making Charly a one-note object of pity but a human being who is loved by his co-workers. He evolves into a man full of this frightening intelligence who becomes the thermometer of the way the world is heading, going so far as to denounce the state of the cold war and America's complacent society which echoes FAHRENHEIT 451 when he addresses that education comes from television. Claire Bloom has a role that could be thankless but isn't -- as Alice, she has a lovely, sensitive presence that complements Robertson's completely.
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Charly is not "pure schlock!"
lordgort28 September 2002
The film is wonderful in many aspects. The acting is first-rate; Oscars usually aren't handed out on a whim. Cliff Robertson delivered the performance of his career in this film.

There are elements of science fiction and psychological action in the film. You have been warned. These segments are well done and add to the film as opposed to creating a negative side-track.

I suggest that anyone watching Charly first read at least part of Daniel Keyes's "Flowers for Algernon" for basic background. The film makes more sense after reading the novel.

All in all, Charly is a worthwhile experience. Some may not like the film, but I find it to be one of the best of the 1960s.
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excellent sci-fi film
StanleyStrangelove7 September 2005
Charly is a very touching sci-fi film about a retarded man Charly Gordon (Cliff Robertson) who can barely perform the menial job of sweeping up in a bakery and is the continual butt of jokes and ridicule by the bakers. He is chosen to participate in an experiment and is given treatments to boost his IQ. Alice Kinninan (Claire Bloom) plays one of the scientists who helps Charly to learn. Charly is based on the story Flowers For Algernon and the screenplay was by Stirling Silliphant (In The Heat of the Night.) Cliff Robertson won a best actor Oscar for Charly. The film is intelligent, poignant, and extremely moving. You'll need a box a Kleenex with your popcorn for this one.
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Of mice and men
TheBlueHairedLawyer15 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Charly is an extremely kind, caring but mentally disabled man, living in a rigid society of the late 60's when little was known about mental disabilities, and anyone suffering from autism, Asperger's, Down's, etc. was stuck with the label "retarded." Charly undergoes an experimental treatment that changes his mind to that of a genius, but similar to the adverse effects on experimental subjects in 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Firestarter', his genius mind has effects which are unwanted, on both Charly and the mouse, Algernon, that the treatment was tested on. Charly proves, through experiencing proper education, social interaction, love and imagination, things people had kept from him in the past, that he isn't just another statistic, he isn't just an experiment, he's a person, and messing with a person's mind, no matter the reason, can always have a chance of danger.

I read 'Flowers for Algernon' in school, but because of the outdated view on mental retardation at the time this film was made, they refused to show it in class, which I can honestly understand. Autism has been in my family a while now and it's a difficult thing for people, especially young adults, to accept. I bought the film myself and watched it, and was very shocked at how close to the book and how sad it was. It was produced around the 'Summer of Love' and along with The Baby (1973), was the first film, although by today's standards both are highly outdated, to break the silence on the subject of mental disabilities. This led the way for various other films such as The Secret (1992), Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) and Phoebe in Wonderland (2008), movies that point out that people with trouble learning and doing certain things are not idiots, they just have a unique way of thinking and seeing the world.

The soundtrack was an eerie melody of 60's-style hippie type music, melancholy at some points and cheerful at others. The acting, especially from Charly's character, was amazing, especially when considering the actor played both the part of a genius, and who society called a "retard", it's a huge contrast and I imagine quite a role reversal to portray.

Charly (also known as Flowers for Algernon), is a powerful and thought-provoking film that may change the way all of us view life, the way we all view and judge people, based on anything different, and maybe we should all think twice about what we see as "normal".
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Cliff Robertson's superb performance...score: 8 (out of 10).
Bill-24716 August 1999
Before there was "Awakenings" (1990) and "Good Will Hunting" (1997), there was a sincere, sad, and bittersweet film called "Charly" (1968). The film is based on the book "The Two Worlds of Charly Gordon." Cliff Robertson delivers a brilliant performance as a mentally retarded man who becomes a genius through scientific experiments. Claire Bloom is Charly's social worker (and love interest). The film is directed by Ralph Nelson ("Lillies of the Field"). score: 8 (out of 10).
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Flawed, Manipulative, Maudlin, Moving, Unforgettable. See It.
Danusha_Goska11 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Charly" is a flawed, maudlin, poignant, unintentionally laughable, heavy handed, sometimes grotesque, inescapably dated, unforgettable movie.

"Charly" is the story of a mentally retarded adult man (Cliff Robertson) who is experimented on by two scientists, Dr. Strauss and Dr. Nemur (Lilia Skala and Leon Janney) Each is terrifying. Skala forces smiles through clenched teeth and a German accent; Janney is a humorless, deep-voiced skull. These scientists have been able to dramatically increase the intelligence of Algernon, a mouse. Without so much as a signed, informed-consent release form, Charly is experimented on, as well. He, too, becomes dramatically more intelligent.

Newly smart Charly falls in love with his teacher, Alice Kinian (Claire Bloom.) She rejects him at first, but they connect. Shortly thereafter, Algernon dies. The same fate awaits Charly, but he will lose his intelligence first. He dismisses Alice, and, unlike Bette Davis in "Dark Victory," dies off camera.

Like many other reviewers here, I read "Flowers for Algernon" and saw this movie as a child. I never forgot either. I remember, even as a kid, feeling embarrassed for being so moved by the story, because it is so blatantly manipulative. And yet it is undeniably powerful.

I resent the film's masochistic wallow in Charly's victimization by his coworkers. One scene of Gimpy (Edward McNally) instigating trouble at the bakery where Charly works, would have done the job of communicating the torment of being a retarded man. But the movie includes several such scenes: Gimpy and the gang humiliating Charly with bread dough packed into his locker at work, with a juke box trick, by telling him to go stand on a deserted street corner at night and wait for snow, and with a dough machine. Finally, when Charly becomes more intelligent, they gang up on him and fire him. These vignettes have the ring of truth, but their repetition only serves to encourage the viewer to wallow in pity for Charly, and to become enraged at his tormentors.

The movie is very much of its time. The bakery villains are working class white men; Straus and Nemur, and their colleagues in a conference audience who shoot questions at Charly, are soulless scientists and authority figures: classic 1960s villains, reflecting the obsessions, paranoias, resentments and scapegoating of sixties hippies. The psychedelic sequence, where a wounded Charly deals with Alice's rejection of him by taking drugs, having orgies, and growing his hair long, is a goofy time capsule of 1968's values, obsessions, and grandiosity. The Ravi Shankar soundtrack, that makes use of flutes, harpsichords, and sitar, is obtrusive in its shouting, "1968!" The split screen effect also calls attention to itself. The only stars who could carry split screen off were Rock Hudson and Doris Day.

Cliff Robertson won an Academy Award for his performance as Charly, and it is that kind of performance – an actor playing a retarded man – that was so harshly mocked in "Tropic Thunder." The fact is that Robertson creates two believable, very different characters: retarded Charly and intelligent Charly. When his "non-retarded" voice first breaks through, when he asks Alice if her fiancé loves her, it's like a teenage boy's voice breaking.

Claire Bloom exhibits her usual restrained sexuality and hints at an inner disciplinarian / dominatrix. When smart Charly first lunges at her, she calls him a "stupid moron," which is completely unbelievable, but serves the movie's need to be as maudlin as possible. The romance between Charly and Alice is disturbing to anyone with a sense of the ethics of teacher-student relationships, but the film isn't interested in exploring this relationship with any seriousness. Rather, it just wants to extract as many tears as possible. Once Charly and Alice connect, the camera moves as far away from them as possible. As dewy landscape shots – parks, ponds, toy trains – parade across the screen, Robertson and Bloom perform voice-over readings of what sounds like Rod McKuen poetry. It's all so 1960s, so dated, so much of a cheat of the viewer. The film is very willing to spend lots of time in close observations of Charly's workmates tormenting him, but has no time to develop a real relationship between Charly and Alice.

The movie undercuts its own message in its final scenes. When Charly realizes that he will become retarded again, he is haunted by terrifying, disturbing ghosts of his past, retarded self. These retarded-Charly-ghosts have no dignity, no value. If the movie wants to tell us that retarded people are primarily people, just like anyone else, it undercuts that message by making smart Charly's past and future retarded self so disturbing.

For all of its flaws, this is a movie very worth seeing. There are genuinely touching scenes, such as when Charly helps a retarded man clean up after dropping glasses in a bar.

Too, the film raises profound questions, questions that anyone who has lost a loved one to Alzheimer's has asked: where is the essence of the soul? In the intellect? Or somewhere impossible to locate? Finally, "Charly" exerts a real tug on the heart. Whether that is because schlock is more powerful than art, or because there is art here under all the schlock, is topic for a dissertation, not a relatively short review.
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With out the motor cycle scene, I would have given it a 3/4
FranktheRabbit19 September 2001
In 1959, a short story was written called Flowers for Algernon. It was about a mentaly retarded man who is a guinea pig in an operation that triples his I.Q. It was written by Daniel Keyes, who won many awards for his short story. In 1968, that story was made into a movie called Charly. The movie pretty much follows the storyline and is very good until one scene when it dosen't go down a hill, but goes down a cliff. From the scene were he stalks his teacher, and then attacks her, thats when it goes, a long long long way down. And can't get back out. From then on it leaves Daniel Keyes story, and turns into something totally different. So different it scares me. It tearns into a hip movie about free love and easy rider. Only see this movie for Cliff and the Boston locales.
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I loved this movie so much!!!
CampLarry200716 June 2003
After reading Flowers for Algernon in my 8th grade class, I loved it, having a retarted friend myself. When my teacher surprised us with watching this movie, I thought it was great. The producers seemed to make the relationship between Charly and Miss. Kinnian so much better. I liked how they had her engaged to someone else, then having Charly kind of rape her, and at last having the two together. I also loved how they took the original story and made it their own. Everything was perfect. Now I just wish I could find a movie store by me that rents out this movie. I would love to show it to the rest of my family.
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The 2 Faces of Charly: Brilliance+Retardation=Brilliant Film ***1/2
edwagreen11 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Based on "The 2 Worlds of Charlie Gordon," this 1968 heartbreaking film was excellent. Cliff Robertson, as Charly, gave a rousing performance and in an upset to rival 1947 when Loretta Young ("The Farmer's Daughter") beat out Rosalind Russell for "Mourning Becomes Electra, Cliff Robertson won the best actor award despite the fact that Peter O'Toole was heavily favored to win for "The Lion in Winter."

Robertson gave everything in his award winning performance. As a retarded individual, he takes an experimental drug and reaches genius capacity with it. What he is not told is that he will eventually revert back to his retardation. How he reverts back was memorably shown.
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Stick with the book
citybuilder926 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Let me just start off by saying that I absolutely loved the book "Flowers for Algernon", which we read in my lit class at school. It was probably the best book I've ever been forced to read. Also at our school, they made us watch this movie after finishing it. I found this film at best a poor adaption of a great novel and at worst, a disastrous attempt at surrealist film-making.

First, the positives: The actors, especially male and female leads are excellent and have a definite chemistry together on screen, however they seem a bit confined by the material they are given to perform.

Now, the far more lengthly section of my review: the negatives. 1. Cinematography. The whole movie seems to have been shot in a style to suggest being on a bad acid-trip (not that I would know the feeling.). Many scenes are an endless, ridiculously over metaphorical montage where it would have been much simpler and more effective to use a more straight forward approach. For some odd reason, the director also decided to use a split screen effect at certain arbitrary points in the film for no apparent reason other than possibly the notion that it looked cool.

2. Writing. This is probably my biggest problem with the film. The writing in the movie is simply incredulous, seeing as it not only departs from the book in unnecessary ways, which I will detail later, but it also changes the plot in ways that make no logical sense, such as changing it so that the doctors don't tell Charlie that the effects of the operation may not be permanent, not something a 20th century medical professional is likely to do given that a patient must give informed consent before undergoing an operation. The beginning portion drags on, filled with scenes of Charlie doing childish activities such as playing on a slide or driving bumper cars to the point where one feels like jumping up on one's chair and screaming "We get it! He's retarded!". The most nonsensical plot twist is the series of scenes in which Charlie, not being emotionally developed, tries to force himself on Ms. Kinnian and is, as a result, slapped and called "A stupid moron", then departs on a motorcycle trip for no readily apparent reason and comes back and is suddenly sleeping with Ms. Kinnian, whose fiancée just magically disappears, which leaves the audience scratching its head and saying "Didn't she just slap and insult him two scenes ago? I wish my life worked like that."

3. The Ending. I have given this it's own section because I feel it deserves special attention. At the end of the novel, the reader basically has two ways of interpreting it: Relocation or Suicide (the latter being my preferred interpretation). However, this version removes all of the guesswork by simply giving you no clues as to what happens after he regresses back to his former state. Instead, you get a long, stretched out scene in which he is chased by his former self through long, white hallways for about five minutes, and one is left with a similar reaction I mentioned having during the beginning portion. This is one of the few movies in which I have been shocked to see the end credits, as it just ends with a freeze-frame of Charlie on the teeter-totter and leaves the story completely unresolved.

I'm sorry if the above review seems a bit rantish, however these are simply my criticisms of the film. If you enjoyed it, then that's all well and good. To each his own.
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Sometimes a Deal Too Good to Be True Is.
tfrizzell13 August 2004
Strange little over-achiever has that 1960s psycho-crazed style that seems a bit over the top and sometimes like a lot of overkill. A mentally challenged man (Oscar-winner Cliff Robertson) tries to improve his intelligence with the help of a beautiful doctor (Claire Bloom) and experimental scientists who have successfully increased the thought capabilities of a lab mouse. Soon Robertson is to be their guinea pig, but could it be possible that the treatment might make the titled character too smart? And is the experiment as perfect as it seems on first glance? Robertson's dynamic role is the true key to this tone-deaf curiosity as he literally plays his part as multiple personalities. Everything else, including the direction and the script, is just window-dressing. The movie wants to question the relationship between God and science but its style makes that potential point go flying out the window. The possible romantic connection between Robertson and Bloom feels forced and detrimental to the overall effectiveness of the picture. 4 stars out of 5.
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Very disappointed, not a good adaptation or even a good stand alone movie (spoilers)
xicano291324 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I did not like this movie at all. The only good part in this movie for me was Cliff Robertson, he did a really good job with his mannerisms. He really did seem like a different person before and after the operation.

I watched the movie because of Flowers for Algernon but it only shares names and the basic premise with the book. The movie doesn't really show any understanding of the book. The movie is almost 2 hours long, and yet everything seems so rushed. Ideas are thrown at you but we don't really experience them. In the book changes are gradual at first and the process speeds up. In the movie everything just happens, he gets an operation and becomes a genius. Then just as quickly he loses it, like literally in the middle of a sentence.

The movie also really missed out on showing the intellectual and emotional implications shown in the novel. In the novel Charly has an intellectual awakening. He becomes so smart that he passes everyone up. This leads him to see that people all have a limit to what they know. Because of this he feels people are like frauds, pretending to be something they are not. It angers him scientists only know about certain things. On the emotional side his intelligence quickly and vastly surpasses his emotional understanding. He can not relate to people or understand them. As he becomes a genius, he is not even at the level of an adolescent, emotionally speaking. The idea of love is not one that he can truly understand until almost the very end.

In the movie, ugh they just throw a love story at us without reason. I mean what in the movie can explain why his teacher would fall in love with him. She just does. It shows Charly become sexually awakened, then he is forceful on her, leaves and seems to develop relationships with many women, and comes back and they are in love. It really makes no sense, even ignoring the novel.
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doesn't age well
teaspoonof21grms17 February 2004
I saw this movie back in the 8th grade, and to tell you the truth, I was really disappointed. It was required in the 8th grade that we read Flowers for Algernon, the book in which this movie is based. Well, I can see how it may have been a great movie back then, but it certainly hasn't aged well at all. The acting is pretty good, but the editing and cinematography are just way out-dated. The story doesn't run smoothly either. Also, I was disappointed that the movie didn't really follow the book. Many of the characters are altered and some are even cut out. In a nutshell, this movie is somewhat corny.

In my mind, a film's greatness is tested by how many generations it can survive and continue to entertain. Well, this movie has not passed my test. Although it wasn't an awful movie, I still give it 5/10. I do recommend it to any movie buffs who enjoy low-budget 60s films.

I really do hope that they make a re-make of this movie, but have it more loyal to the book. I bet it would do really well with audiences. And if they don't, I highly recommend reading the book.
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