Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 19


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,849
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Movie Info

This TV adaptation of Daniel Keyes' story Flowers for Algernon) features Charly, a 30-year-old mentally retarded bakery worker. When a neurosurgeon and a psychiatrist ask Charly to participate in an experiment, Charly becomes a genius, but the change turns out to be only temporary.


Cliff Robertson
as Charly Gordon
Claire Bloom
as Alice Kinian
Lilia Skala
as Dr. Anna Straus
Leon Janney
as Dr. Richard Nemur
Ruth White
as Mrs. Apple
Ralph Nelson
as Convention speaker
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Critic Reviews for Charly

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (12) | Rotten (7)

Audience Reviews for Charly

  • May 02, 2014
    A mentally retarded bakery worker is given a treatment that makes him smart. The most striking problem with this film is the incredibly unnecessary and distracting psychedelic sequences that interrupt the story. With bright colors and freeze-frames, the film briefly becomes a music video before returning to the plot. Ignoring these sequences, the film still suffers because the central question of the story and the source material is whether being smart makes one a better person or happier. The film doesn't seem to care about the ethical dilemmas associated with the doctors' treatment or the effects on Charley. Rather, we get maudlin nonsense and a ham-handed love story that has none of the passion or chemistry that - for example - the love story in My Left Foot features. Overall, this film may be a victim of its psychedelic times, but that isn't the only thing holding it back from its potential.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jul 06, 2012
    Charly lives because Cliff Robertson is incredible. His performance makes the film just so brilliant in a sense, and I loved him. The films itself has a great message and I enjoyed it.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2010
    Get ready for a mind-blower kids: I've actually read "Flowers for Algernon", which is mind blowing enough - seeing as how I'm hardly a big reader (Don't get too excited, it was for school) - when you don't take into consideration that this "1960s adaptation of a dark novel" is, believe it or not, [b]even less hopeful!"[/b] Hey, I said that it's less hopeful, not that it's more subtle, because this film isn't always the most restrained, even if it is a smidge less lighthearted than other '60s dramas of its type. Well, in all fairness, it's got to be hard to not get at least a smidge manipulative when tackling a dramatic piece about a mentally retarded man who finds love and brilliance, only to have it both threatend, because that is one seriously sad story. Well, at least the Charlie Gordon character put his brief brilliance to a bit of good use, because, as Cliff Robertson very well knows, "with great power comes great responsibility". ...Cliff Robertson was Uncle Ben in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man" trilogy, just in case you didn't get that, which would be a bit surprising, seeing as how that Cliff Robertson role and this one are pretty much the only ones that people remember, which is a shame, because Robertson was quite the actor, or at least I think that he was, seeing as how I've only seen him play, well, Uncle Ben and Charlie Gordon. Eh, whatever, this is still a good performance to go with a pretty decent film. Still, as enjoyable as this film is, its impact doesn't just goes retar-I mean, slowed down by cheesiness, but also by, well, simply slowness. The film isn't especially boring, yet it does take on quite a bit of dullness at times to break up consistent slowness, as the film drags along near-glacially with a bone-dry atmosphere and quite a bit of quietness, thus creating, if nothing else, considerable blandness, which goes exacerbated by the film's not just being limp in atmosphere, but in progress, as things go padded out by needless over-exposition, if not cuttable filler, or even an extended period or two of total nothingness, thus slowing down an already slow enough film, occasionally nearly to a standstill. The film limps along slowly but surely, yet slowly nevertheless, going padded out in structure and dulled down in execution, thus creating a kind of disengaging limpness that nearly pushes this film into underwhelmingness. What ultimately does succeed in pushing this film into underwhelmingness is the film's being just so considerably unsubtle, for although the film is a bit more pessimistic than its more along the lines of bittersweet source material, it remains manipulative, and more than it needs to be. Certain character and story exaggerations go heavily pronounced by an overwhelming cheesiness that may not be ceaseless, yet remains consistent enough to thoroughly taint the film's dramatic aspects, intentions and overall themes, tones and depths with near-profound unsubtlety and manipulativeness. The tones of the film are overwhelming, so much so that when they finally shift, - whether it be from innocent to dark, or even from the down-to-earth to bizarre (Seriously, what in the world is up with that motorcycle montage at about the hour mark?) - they fail to flow into each other all that organically, thus givng the film a kind of unevenness that taints its tonal effectiveness even further. Really, when you get down to it, the problem with the film is that it's not so much amateur, or even too much of a product of its time, yet remains held back by a combination of the restaints of the time and, by any generation's right, considerable missteps that drench the final in the slowness, tonal faultiness and overall overambition that leaves it to fall short on delivering as a fulfilling adaptation of a worthy story and as a rewarding film by its own right. Still, while the film is underwhelming, it never descends to mediocrity, much less to disdain-worthy, and while I do wish that this worthy tale had been executed more competently, it ultimately goes executed well enough to sustain your attention, as well as, to a certain extent, your emotional investment. While very underused and not even terribly upstanding to begin with, Ravi Shankar's score work remains unique and fairly impressive, having a kind of elegant trippiness to it that's both rather innocent in its colorful livliness, as well as somewhat uneasing in its strangeness, thus making for some odd yet lovely tunes that fit this film's tones and themes like a glove, so much so that when the music is played, it really breathes a lot of life into this film, and not just because the music does away with the film's dulling quietness. Further livliness comes from the film's stylistic choices, for although the film doesn't get to be especially stylish until about its second half, and although a couple stylistic touches get to be either a bit too bizarre or tonally uneven, if not both (Seriously, you've got to see that motorcycle montage at about the hour mark, because it just comes out of nowhere), on the whole, the almost surrealistic style further reflects the strangeness of the film in a generally fitting fashion that actually supplements the film's effectiveness, while Arthur Ornitz's very much dated yet still reasonably colorful cinematography catches your eye throughout the film. Of course, making a few clever stylistic choices isn't the only thing that director Ralph Nelson does right, as there are occasions in which Nelson backs up his ambition for resonance with inspiration, for although the film is rarely, if ever subtle, it does have occasions in which it is, in fact, resonant, as Nelson will work through, if not actually with the corniness and slowness in a poignant fashion to craft a sober and spirited moment of genuine depth and effectiveness, whether it be during a climactic moment in which the Charlie Gordon character's intelligence breaks through or an actually pretty strong final half-hour, which may not consistently deliver, yet still gives us glimpses at the better final product that this film should have been throughout. The moments of effectiveness are, of course, rare, as the film is so unsubtle and, at times, rather unengaging, so much so that even the film's highest points of effectiveness go, to one extent or another, tainted by cheesiness, yet those hight points in effectiveness nevertheless remain present and define this film with golden moments, which isn't to say that Nelson's spirit in this project isn't palpable enough throughout the film for the final product to don a certain charm that keeps you sticking with it through and through. Other than that, one of the things that keeps this film alive the most is, of course, the simple fact that this story, while messily handled, remains worthy and fascinating, and with Stirling Silliphant's often snappy, generally well-structured and altogether actually pretty good script's (It's the direction that really undercuts this film) expansions upon and liberties with Daniel Keyes' original story, "Flowers for Algernon", upon which this film is loosely based, exploring the intriguing subject matter and dramatic aspects further, a promising concept is established, only to go far too tainted in the home stretch, though not to where you can't still reasonably appreciate the story, as well a certain other person who brings such a worthy tale to life when he needs to. Outside of Cliff Robertson, there's not much impressiveness within the performances, with a few secondary and tertiary performances ranging from mediocre to actually pretty bad (Ruth White was driving me crazy with that Irish accent alone), and even the impressiveness within Cliff Robertson's performance has gone diluted by the test of time, yet even to this day, Robertson remains impressive enough to earn your investment, as he portrays the initial retardation of the Charlie Gordon character with a buyable, if not almost transformative grace, and once the intelligence sets in, Robertson charismatically delivers on believable layers, before delivering on compelling emotional range that sells and helps in making effective the crushing conflict within the film's final act. Robertson carries this flawed film, yet his talent, like just about all of the other strengths in the film, goes betrayed by what the film doesn't get right, though when it's all said and done, the film hits just enough to charm, occasionally move and altogether leave you enjoying yourself. At the end of this experiment, the film is left limping along with consistent slowness, - which sometimes falls as low as dullness - yet goes hurt the most by the extremely messy handling of the tones and themes, which are sometimes uneven and consistently overblown, a bit manipulative and altogether too cheesy and profoundly unsubtle, thus leaving this promising project to collapse at underwhelming, yet not as mediocre, as the film boasts underused yet nifty score work and stylistic choices to reflect and supplement its tones and themes, which go particularly brought to life by inspired moments in Ralph Nelson's storytelling, as well as by a strong script and story - which are worthy of a better-directed and stronger film - and a somewhat dated yet still impressively layered, emotional and believable lead performance by Cliff Robertson, who helps in making "Charly" an, albeit very much improvable, yet generally enjoyable adaptation of Daniel Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon". 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 05, 2010
    I enjoyed the book Flowers for Algernon when I read it in grade school, but seeing it on the screen was a disappointing experience. They changed things for the worse, and the actors were bad, and they had some weird psychedelic stuff in there. I wouldn't recommend seeing this movie.
    Aj V Super Reviewer

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