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A Mormon movie with an actress named Beers--I love that!
Going into Charly, I wasn't sure what to expect. This is a film with LDS themes, and while I am not Mormon, I am very familiar with the gospel. In fact, I happen to be married to a wonderful woman who is a member of the church. When I heard about the plot to this movie (based on the novel of the same name), I must admit, I was intrigued.
Charly is the name of one of this film's main characters, a fun loving New Yorker who's life drastically changes after taking a trip to good old Salt Lake City Ut. While there, she meets Sam, a straight as an arrow member of the church. Before long, the two find themselves drawn to each other despite very different backgrounds.
The obvious happens in the very first act of this film, and my first instinct was to walk out of the movie because I didn't buy it for a second. In fact, the first forty minutes or so of Charly really didn't ring true to me. It felt rushed and it was almost if chunks of the story seemed to be missing. Thankfully, I stuck around.
Charly does grow into something much deeper, even if it's final act is quite reminiscent of the 70's tearjerker Love Story. The fact is that the performances really ring true with such sincerity, that much of the climax was painful and uncomfortable to watch.
Jeremy Elliot is quite stiff as Sam but he does loosen up as the film progresses. Charly belongs to actress Heather Beers. I've never seen her before, but I'm sure she'll go places after studio heads see her in this. Even while the early goings-on in this picture leave a bit to be desired, Beers gives a lively, textured performance that lifts this character above the norm. Her final moments in this picture range from sincere to absolutely heartbreaking.
What I liked most about Charly was it's attempt at giving a balanced outlook at the church. While the first act did feel a bit preachy, the story switches gears, and I was surprised to find myself won over. Ultimately, this film avoids treating Sam like a saint. He, like everyone, is flawed. At one point in the picture, he even questions his own faith, which I found quite bold. It is these honest moments that thankfully over shadow the sticky, pretentious stuff. I'm still waiting for someone to make a film about a couple who both have different beliefs, but still have a happy, healthy relationship. Believe me, when I tell you, that sort of thing does exist. Maybe someday, I can tell that story.
Ultimately, Charly went in a direction I wasn't expecting. A direction that most of us can relate to. For that, I applaud this well intentioned movie.
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