Charly (1968)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.  

USA, 1968.  , , .  Screenplay by , based on the novel Flowers For Algernon by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .   Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Cliff Robertson plays a mentally challenged adult who makes a living pushing a broom in a bakery, his co-workers constantly playing mean tricks on him, while his free time is spent at a laboratory where his therapist () attempts to improve his life skills.  Charly is having a tough time learning basic reading and writing comprehension, but things look up when he proves to be the right candidate for an experimental brain operation being tested out by two ambitious scientists ( and an excellent Lilia Skala).  The procedure turns out to be a success, quickly improving his mental capacity and turning him from a happy idiot into a miserable genius, putting him in Bloom’s bed but also causing him stress when he observes from the laboratory mice who preceded him into the operating room that the effects of the miracle are not permanent.  What is particularly disappointing about this gentle foray into science-fiction, for which Robertson predictably won an Academy Award for a passable performance in a typical Oscar-bait role, is that the man’s realizations about the world’s cruelty should be the focus of the third act, but this possibility is ignored.  Instead, director Ralph Nelson turns the volume up on some now very dated film techniques, like split-screen and picture-in-picture effects that take the place of dramatic investigation and really make something campy out of a film that should be poignant and sweet.  Later remade for television with Matthew Modine, and unofficially reworked as a project for Elisabeth Shue as Molly.

Academy AwardBest Actor (Cliff Robertson)

Berlin Film Festival: In Competition

Golden Globe Award:  Best Screenplay
Nominations:  Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Cliff Robertson)

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