on June 5, 2010
I am an eighth grade Language Arts teacher, and my class reads "Flowers for Algernon" each year. Our school has a copy of the old video "Charly," but I really don't like it, especially since I have to watch it three times in a day. I took a chance on this new one, never having seen it before showing it in class. It is much more enjoyable. First of all, it is a more modern style of videography (no split screens or long montages). It also has no drug referrences. It does have implicit sexual activity, but it is not violent, like in the old version. My kids all enjoyed this movie. They laughed at different parts, and it was easy for them to identify the characters after having read the short story. I do recommend this video to anyone who enjoyed the story.
on October 14, 2009
I have been looking for this ever since the VHS recording that I loaned out to a fellow teacher never made it back to me.
This version is so much more appropriate for the middle school level than "Charly" (i.e. drug and sexual innuendo).
I have a shortened version of the story I use in my textbooks with my students. This movie is a much better fit than "Charly."
on May 18, 2010
I'm going to reveal the ending of this film (more or less), since it's the point of my review. Please stop reading if you want to be surprised.
And the message of my review is: please don't watch this film if you like happy endings. It's a VERY good film; but it ends with the hero doomed to failure, yet unaware and determined to keep trying. I think that makes him a noble, tragic character; but for some people, the ending will be just too sad.
And in that way, this film is an excellent translation of the short story, which has the same noble but tragic ending. And in my opinion, it's far better than its predecessor, Charly, that psychedelic 60s relic. As a fan of the short story and of Cliff Robertson, I had high hopes for that film, and was disappointed by its rambling, disjointed story. (Later, I read the novel, and forgave the film a little bit: like the film, the novel is rambling and disjointed. The short story is better, tighter, and more moving.) Though I scarcely know Matthew Modine's work, I'll look for it in the future. He is a far more convincing Charlie Gordon, both as a struggling low intellect and as a troubled genius.
It has been a couple decades since I read the short story, and longer since I read the novel. I'm sure this film probably falls between the two (I don't think the short story included the subplot with Charlie's mother); but it feels like a lot of the fluff from the novel was trimmed out. The result is just about ideal for a 92 minute film, with nothing I would sat needs cutting, and no questions unanswered or character motivations unexplained.
If there's a weak spot in this film, it's the teacher, Miss Kinnian. This is no critique of Kelli Williams, who is well cast as the caring, intelligent, crusading female lead (much as she played in The Practice); but the character is never given time to develop into a three-dimensional person in her own right. She has roles to play in Charlie's life: first as surrogate mother, then as coach/confidante, and then as reluctant lover. But we see no real person underneath, just the person Charlie needs her to be at times. But this is Charlie's story, not hers, so that's to be expected.
I read "Flowers for Algernon" more than a few years ago, have seen "Charly," and just read the short story version for the first time. I saw this adaptation when it came out on T.V., and as soon as it came out on DVD, I snatched it up and have seen the movie around 10 times since then. Needless to say, I love the story "Flowers for Algernon," and I like this movie the most.
Because it's a made-for-tv movie, it's not as polished-looking as bigger-budget movies, and timewise, could be longer for character development and to flesh out the story more. However, for what it is, the movie was very well done.
I thought this "Flowers" made Charlie Gordon more sympathetic than both the Charlie in "Charly" and the book. This Charlie was more like the Charlie in the short story version, and I thought the writers made a good call by making him less aggressive and tragic than in the book and 1968 movie. They focused more on the sentimental themes without sacrificing the main theme of the relationship between intelligence and acceptance. For example, Charlie and Alice's relationship was realistic in the sense that we can see why Alice would like Charlie after the operation. In the book and the 1968 movie...those reasons were lost on me. The ending to this movie was also a perfect balance of sad and sweet, and continues to make you wonder long after the credits finish rolling.
In addition, I would like to add that I thought all the actors were great in their roles, especially Kelli Williams. Her performance was very natural, with the perfect amount of depth and feeling. Matthew Modine was also good as Charlie, though sometimes I questioned his portrayal of a mentally impaired guy. In my opionion the actors who played his classmates did a better job of it. Also, a big chunk of cheese to the mouse that played Algernon. He was very good at being cute and super smart.
Final thoughts: A movie you can watch over and over again, without getting tired of the themes, story, and characters. The movie does not drag at all; if anything I wish it were longer. Your heart can't help being captured by such a thought-provoking, emotional story.
on June 7, 2010
I will admit to being a little leery when a favorite story of mine gets adapted to the screen (be it a movie or TV), and "Flowers for Algernon" is on my top five list of best short stories of all time (the novel is another matter entirely). While I understand that no story survives this transition completely intact or unaltered, this movie should be used as a case study of what not to do when making an adaptation: everything that made the original such a heart-breaking record of Charlie Gordon's rise and fall has been gutted from this script. Charlie is barely sympathetic in this rendition, and Matthew Modine's lackluster performance is just the rancid icing on the tasteless cake. Avoid this one at all costs.
on December 8, 2013
Avoid. I bought this and the older version 1968 verson of Charley and they aren't anything alike.
The only version is the one you want to buy and has more meaning.
The 1968 version of Charley has a sad ending but that's the way the book ends.
The 1968 version of Charley is a reminder that life is not fair and that's the only thing that anyone has really.
on June 5, 2013
In Tropic Thunder, Robert Downey, jr. gave Ben Stiller some professional advice about playing mentally challenged characters. Matthew Modine would have benefited from that advice before making this film almost a decade earlier. I've got nothing him against him as an actor, but his performance in the first 30 minutes of this film would make a junior high drama club walk out of a screening. A performance so embarrassingly bad that it yanks you completely out of the film in under 5 minutes and you'll never make it back. The pacing of the film is poor, the dialogue and character interactions are hamfisted and unbelievable. It wouldn't have made the grade as an afterschool special.
I loved the short story and book since I read it the first time almost 30 years ago, but this version just doesn't cut it. While I understand that an educator may find this version more sterile and less objectionable for showing in public school lit and English classes, it doesn't remotely hold a candle to the Cliff Robertson version "Charly." While dated stylistically, the structure, pacing and performances in the 1968 film at least does some justice to the source material. This version takes less liberties with the book, but strikes it completely as credible drama.
on December 22, 2011
This movie came out on CBS about 10 years ago, and I recorded it on VHS, complete with commercials and severe weather warnings (LA was being hit by thunderstorms that year). Since this version was far better than earlier movie adaptation ("Charly" starring Cliff Robertson), I would show it to my Freshman class after we read the short story. It was always a hit with them, and I highly recommend this movie for any teacher who teaches "Flowers". I'm just thrilled that it is now available in DVD, so I don't have to fast-forward through the commercials.
As to why my Freshmen liked the movie: DVD is based on the novel, so it is just different enough from the short story as not to be a repeat of what we read. In fact, a "Compare & Contrast" handout is a frequent assignment when we view the movie. The acting is well done, from the leads (Modine and Williams) to the lesser parts (Dr. Strauss, Burt, and of course, Algernon). There was a good deal of humor with Charlie's classmates and Charlie's mispronunciation of the word "genius" (jean-ass) which kids laughed out. As for the "sex scene" that some reviewers objected to: sex is just alluded to; there is no actual nudity in the movie (It was, after all, originally broadcast on CBS). Kelli Williams wakes up from sleep and Audience sees her naked back as she turns to look at Modine. Yes, there were immature giggles (these are Freshmen), but nothing over-the-top. Again, it is up to each instructor whether or not to fast-forward this scene or not (maybe 5 seconds, if that).
Great movie. Great price (Only $6!). Great resource for teaching the short story.
on October 16, 2012
I'm a middle school English teacher and teach this short story to my 8th graders. I really dislike "Charly" and thought I'd try this. I believe this one is even worse. I don't know why the movie insists on showing Charlie eavesdropping (and smiling) while listening to a young couple "make out" or why Charlie and Miss Kinnian have to sleep together. These are scenes that made me scratch my head, but the movie is simply not a good one at all. I'd rather pick and choose the better scenes in Charly than show any of this.
Well there goes a box of tissues. Yes, I cried, don't judge. I cried during the book too, so I can't say I wasn't expecting it. If you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't read the book, please go read it before you watch this movie. Sure you don't have to, but I would just highly recommend it for full viewing pleasure.
Charlie is a person with developmental disabilities. He spends his day between class and working at a bakery. But then he is chosen for an experiment. One that has great success when performed on laboratory mice. But Charlie will be the first human and it will make a very profound effect on Charlie and those around him.
Matthew Modine: Charlie Gordon
Kelli Williams: Alice Kinnian
Ron Rifkin: Dr. Jonah Strauss
Cameron Bowen: Charlie as a child
Matthew Modine does a fabulous job playing Charlie. While his emotions are not quite as strong as in the book perhaps. But he shows the progression from Charlie as mentally disabled to Charlie as a genius in a very convincing way. It's hard not to like him. Although I think Algernon the Mouse might have upstaged him a bit. You can't really beat a cute mouse. Williams as Miss Kinnian didn't get as large of a role. As Charlie's teacher and friend she was important, but the movie focused more on him than it did on her. She was nice, but didn't have as much substance as she could have.
For those familiar with the book you won't notice too many differences. Sure it deviates a bit, but most movies do. I actually think this one did pretty well at keeping to original content. And it brought a whole new level of emotion to be able to see everything in film version. Those tissues were definitely needed, especially with some of the scenes with Algernon and a couple of the scenes between Alice and Charlie. And the movie was paced fairly. It didn't feel rushed to me. Even though it had a lot of ground to cover and the time span was in months. And I think it did have some lessons to impart, because it is really sad how people can treat others at time, especially if they're perceived as different.
Since this wasn't a flashy film filled with special effects or feats of daring, it was shot pretty standard. It actually reminded me of something more filmed in the 80's rather than 2001. Not in a terrible way, but it just didn't seem quite that modern in terms of clothes and settings. And the music was background music and didn't really have any time period or emotion tied to it.
I really enjoyed this movie. Almost as much as I did the book. I would think that anyone who likes drama or the Flowers for Algernon story would probably appreciate it.
Review by M. Reynard 2013