Note that the all-caps format of the poster has been converted to mixed-case here.
"Jack Weyland's Charly" will vault to the big screen this weekend, bringing the moment of truth for the producers, actors and others who have put so much into the movie. They will finally learn whether their work will be positively received by the public.
Following up on Thursday's premiere spectacular at Jordan Commons, which planned to feature live bands and a Ferris wheel, the film will open on 45 screens throughout Southern Idaho and Utah today. It will play in the intermountain west throughout the holiday season and will then expand to other theaters in the United States and Canada, said Producer Lance Williams.
A few of the major players in the "Charly" production shared with the Daily Universe their hopes and fears for opening night.
Williams admitted there is some apprehension attendant on opening weekend.
"Opening night is crucial for a film like ours," he said. "It is important that we have a big turnout to ensure that word of mouth spreads as quickly as possible. Not unlike 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding,' our film will become known primarily by word of mouth. Our biggest fear is that not enough people know about the show and don't come the first weekend."
Jack Weyland, the BYU-Idaho physics professor who wrote the novel the movie is based on, isn't too worried about opening night.
"I have had no fears about the audience's reaction to the movie since the LDS Bookseller's Meeting in August, where there was a showing of the movie to several hundred booksellers," he said. "Afterwards, Heather Beers and I formed a reception line and talked to people as they left the theater. Their feedback was very positive."
Beers, an actor from Salt Lake who stars in the title role, has high hopes for the movie.
"Since Jack Weyland has such a loyal following, and this novel is beloved by a couple generations, I hope audiences find what they are looking for-a Charly they can believe, a Charly they're willing to join on the story's journey," she said.
Does Beers have fears for opening weekend?
"Fears?" she asked. "Just imagine seeing yourself 30-feet tall on a screen. Now THAT'S frightening."
Participants in the "Charly" production have varied plans for opening night.
"I'll be on my couch, popcorn in my mouth, a video on TV-trying to forget that lots of people are watching the debut," said Beers,
Williams has different plans.
"I plan to visit different theaters up and down the Wasatch front and talk to people coming out of the movie to get a feel for how they like it," he said. "Then I plan to take a couple weeks off."
Weyland plans to be in a theater watching the movie opening night.
He said his family has been very supportive of his book being turned into a movie.
"In fact, they made plans to attend the premiere when it was scheduled for September 18," he said. "When the premiere was delayed a week, we decided to go ahead and have a family reunion anyway. And so 'Charly' has brought our family closer together!"
When asked what his physics students thought of his writing career and his ties to the movie, he replied, "Students are mostly bewildered. It's hard for them to see the connection between teaching physics and writing fiction."
Author, cast and crew each have favorite scenes or elements of the movie.
Williams said he likes the Ferris wheel scene because it is symbolic of the theme of the movie.
Beers likes a thrill-ride scene.
"My favorite scene in the movie comes pretty early," Beers said. "Charly is driving a vintage Ford Mustang, speeding through Salt Lake. Granted, I only dared drive it about 15 miles per hour during the shoot, but it was a blast."
Weyland said his favorite part of the "Charly" story is the humor.
"My wife, Sherry, told me that when I was writing 'Charly' I used to laugh in my sleep," he said. "Is that weird?"
For the uninitiated, the plot of "Charly," at least in the beginning, forms around a love triangle.
Jeremy Elliott, whom audiences my recognize as the lead actor from The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd, plays Sam, Charly's new LDS love interest.
Adam Johnson, from Midway, Utah, plays Mark, Charly's old boyfriend from New York.
"I don't want to ruin it for you, but Charly-well, she basically ends up kicking me to the curb," Johnson said.
This plot development should come as no surprise to readers of Jack Weyland's novel "Charly": The movie's plot is largely the same as the novel'.
Johnson, who has not read the book, nonetheless protests, "I'm not as bad as the guy in the book-of course I don't think I'm bad at all. He's a lot of fun. He's with Charly, who he likes a lot, and he wants to keep things the way they are."
The movie's Mark does have a different persona than the Mark in the book.
In the novel, Mark is a sneaky politician. In the movie, Mark is the fun-loving owner of a greeting-card business.
The relationship dynamics of the love triangle have been carried over to the movie from the novel, however.
"The relationship hinges on differences," said Johnson. "The standards that Sam has aren't the same as the standards Mark has. Sam has an eternal view on things, while Mark is just there to have a good time."
The fact that Johnson had not read the novel became evident when he auditioned for a part in the movie.
"I wanted to read for Charly-the lead role," he said.
After being told he couldn't read the part of Charly, he tried out for the part of Sam.
"They didn't like me in the part," Johnson said, "but they cast me as Mark."
His unruly appearance apparently suited Charly's worldly boyfriend in the eyes of the directors.
"I had just been in a Church film where I was baptized by John the Baptist," he said. "So I had long hair and a beard. I told them I'd shave or whatever, but they said, 'Keep it.'"
After being cast, Johnson maintained a state of intentional ignorance on Weyland's original work.
"When I got the part, I didn't want to read the book because I didn't want it to influence how I played him," Johnson said.
Johnson said he enjoyed his part in the movie quite a bit.
"It's a fun part," he said. "Mark is a sarcastic, funny guy who doesn't pull any punches."
Johnson said he also enjoyed working with Heather Beers (Charly), whom he called a great actor.
"It required less work from me, except to keep up with her," he said. "I've been acting for 3 years; Heather's been acting for a very long time."
Johnson said the setting for the movie ranges.
"Some of the movie takes place in New York. Some stuff was shot there, but the majority was shot in Utah," Johnson said.
"Charly" has very strong ties to Utah in general and to the BYU communities in particular.
The movie is, uniquely, adapted by an LDS screenwriter, directed by BYU graduates, and based on a book by an LDS author at BYU-Idaho.
"The idea to make the movie was that of the director-Adam Anderegg, and, initially, one of the producers," said Weyland. "Adam Anderegg is the director. He is a graduate of BYU in film. Micah Merrill was a classmate, also in film. The one who wrote the screenplay was also a classmate at BYU. I guess you could say this movie owes its existence to BYU."
Does Weyland hope to see other of his books made into movies?
"I'd jump at such an opportunity," he said. "But basically how it works is people contact the author, they make an offer, they secure the movie rights, they raise the money, they have someone write a script, and they produce the movie. So it's not something I can speed up."
Weyland listed "Jake," "A New Dawn," and a book he is currently working in called "Cheyenne in New York" as his books he would most like to see made into movies.
Do we have any takers?
Go look through those forgotten stacks of old books in the basement, and dust off that 22-year-old copy of "Charly." Some enthusiastic Alpine people have played a part in the overwhelmingly successful love story now becoming a touching movie.
In 1980, Deseret Book published a first-novel by college professor and physicist Jack Weyland. This was a way for the novice writer to earn a little extra cash to buy a freezer for his family, but it was turned down by half a dozen other publishers before having his work accepted by the Utah-based book company.
For the last few years, a handful of "movie people," who happen to also be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have been building momentum to have the book brought to the screen. Among those who became involved in the rising interest were several Alpine people who were fascinated by the idea.
Lance Williams, a Salt Lake resident, movie producer, and long-time friend of Herb and Liz Christensen, approached the Alpine couple one and a half years ago with the project. The husband and wife fell in love with the idea.
Herb was designated the executive producer, and became responsible for raising money for the endeavor. It was only "coincidence" that the other investors were friends and neighbors of the Christensens - people like Larry and Lynda Barney, plus Fred and Holly Danneman.
Some of the quieter supporters of the movie chose to remain in the background when it came to the writing, filming, even acting; but not these investors.
Five of the individuals were in the thick of the action, and actually have small parts in the movie.
Lead parts in the production were filled by professional actors Heather Beers and Jeremy Elliott, but if you know where to look and who to look for, you will spot a few of these Alpine neighbors.
Since the filming took place totally in Salt Lake City, it was really simple for the group to be part of the action. The Christensens can be seen as extras in the wedding scene, and Liz is the voice of "the New York boyfriend's" mother heard in another scene.
Lynda Barney plays the part of "Sister Johnson" in the movie, and is in the ward Relief Society, garden party, and graveside scenes. She is the experienced actor in the Alpine group, having appeared in a several different movies that have been filmed in the area. She also lists some parts in "Touched By An Angel" episodes on her credits.
Fred and Holly Danneman were given their chance to try their hands at being extras, and were even more excited to have their children be in a scene in the movie that is very common to LDS parents: welcoming a child home from a mission.
Danneman's son, Rick, was delayed in leaving on his mission due to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Since he already looked the part, he was cast as the young man being greeted by his family and friends in the scene going on behind the main characters. His brother and sisters became part of the family group to welcome him.
Each of these participants in the movie-making experience was strongly impressed by the good feelings and cooperation on the set. Some days of filming were very long, and many times the individuals had to wait for hours before they were needed for the scene, but tempers were pleasantly kept under control.
Another point that the investors noticed was the quality of the LDS movie professionals in the area, which includes director Adam Anderegg of American Fork. The cinematography and acting is excellent, according to the group, and one investor added that with the special effects "some things were done that had never been done before."
When the production and filming work was done, the group, along with family and friends, attended the private screening last week to see the completed production.
Each one believes that the film will be a success, even with people who are not of their faith; and they are all ready to be a part of the next "magic" experience should it come their way.
A new LDS movie based on the book that started a genre premieres this weekend -- and its opening will benefit more than the moviemakers.
"Charly," Jack Weyland's popular book that gave birth to LDS romance fiction with its publication in 1980, has been given life in a movie of the same title. Its producers hope its premiere will help improve the life of an 8-month-old Lehi girl who was born with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID).
The bulk of proceeds from the gala benefit premiere on Thursday, Sept. 26, will go to little Emily Heaps, who is still fighting for life after a bone marrow transplant six months ago. One of the film's producers, Micah Merrill, is a neighbor of Jill and Matt Heaps, who face mounting medical bills for Emily, their third child.
"I hope this benefit can help make people aware of the challenges people face with something like SCID," said Merrill, "and we hope we can give the Heaps family resources to help them in their battle."
A limited number of tickets for Thursday's premiere at Jordan Commons are available for $20 each by calling the Jordan Commons Customer Service Desk, (801) 304-4577. In addition, all of the proceeds from rides on a 90-foot-high Ferris wheel outside the building -- a Ferris wheel is the centerpiece in Weyland's story -- will go to Emily Heaps' medical fund.
Sponsored by the film's distributor, Excel Entertainment, plus Deseret Book and LDSSingles.com, the Ferris wheel will offer rides Thursday-Saturday at $2 per person. Rides are free with a movie ticket stub or a receipt from Deseret Book for the newly re-released novel "Charly."
The movie will open in theaters throughout Utah and southern Idaho on Friday, Sept. 27. It's a joint effort and the first feature film by Kaleidoscope Pictures -- mid-1990s BYU film grads Adam Anderegg and Micah Merrill, who decided their award-winning projects were a good reason to keep working together -- and Lance Williams of Focused Light Films.
It tells the story of a Sam, a young returned LDS Church missionary, who falls in love with Charly, an intriguing and beautiful girl who is not of his faith. Heather Beers plays Charly and Jeremy Elliott plays Sam.
"The dramatic love story captured the imaginations of a generation and had a revolutionary impact on LDS publishing" when it came out in 1980, said Mary Jane Jones of Excel Entertainment.
A success because of word-of-mouth advertising, the book instantly became a best-seller. Deseret Book has recently re-released it with updated artwork.
Director Anderegg explained that the movie is the fruition of a 16-year dream for him. He was 16 when a girlfriend -- now his wife -- urged him to read the book.
"I remember thinking: 'This reads like a movie; it's so visual.' But at the time, I didn't have any idea I'd go into film work."
Anderegg said he got serious about making the movie about five years ago, when he and Merrill approached Weyland, a BYU-Idaho physics professor, about buying the rights to the movie.
The crew began shooting a year ago, finishing at the end of September 2001. Anderegg is happy with the result, which he feels puts "Charly" in a separate classification from other LDS films made in the past two years.
"This one's more story-driven," he said. "I hope people will be thoroughly entertained and also edified, that they'll find something in the movie worth taking home."
In his attempt to bring "Jack Weyland's Charly" to the big screen, Adam Thomas Anderegg has already managed to impress possibly the most important person: Weyland himself.
The author has publicly declared that the film is "even better than the book," an endorsement that practically guarantees the movie's success.
"Wow, that means I must have really done something right," Anderegg said with a laugh, after hearing Weyland pay him the ultimate compliment.
Anderegg and Weyland recently participated in interviews to publicize the film, which opens in area theaters today. (Its theatrical release will then "expand" to include Arizona and Idaho in following weeks.)
Ironically, when Weyland began writing "Charly," he intended it to be a screenplay. But his drafts were met with general disinterest from producers, and he turned it into a novel instead.
"I believe that they thought it was too similar to (Erich Segal's "Love Story," which was also turned into a feature film). They didn't really understand it," said Weyland, who added that he never planned to become a novelist.
When it was released in 1979, Weyland's book about the unlikely romance between an LDS man and the title character, a free-spirited New Yorker and non-member, it became something of a local phenomenon.
"The response was overwhelmingly positive. And after hearing for so long that maybe I shouldn't be doing this, I was completely blown away by it," he said.
Today, "Charly" has thousands of devoted fans, including Anderegg, who read the book when he was 16. ("Charly" even helped bring together Anderegg and his wife, Carol, who introduced him to it.)
"It really touched something in me," Anderegg recalled. "I knew that somebody had to make this into a movie, and I was hoping it would be me."
Easier said than done. While Anderegg has worked as assistant editor on TV's "Touched by an Angel" and has produced several well-regarded short films, at that point he hadn't directed a feature.
And so many prospective "Charly" production teams had come and gone. ("I can't tell you how many broken promises there were since the book first came out," Weyland said.)
Still, Anderegg was confident he was the man for the job -- even driving up to Rexburg to take Weyland and his family out to dinner as a method of persuasion.
"It would have been impossible to tell him no after he went through so much effort," Weyland said. "And I could see how much he loved the book and how much wanted to do it justice."
The next step was finding the right script. Anderegg and producers Micah Merrill and Lance C. Williams commissioned a script treatment by Janine Whetten Gilbert (a fellow professor of Weyland's at Brigham Young University-Idaho).
"She really kept the story intact," Anderegg said. "Changes were necessary, but she really nailed it -- made sure it still had the heart there."
Then Anderegg and the production team had to cast the film. To play strait-laced Sam Robertson, they found local actor Jeremy Elliott, who has had roles in a pair of fairly high-profile LDS films ("Out of Step" and "The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shepherd").
More troublesome was finding the right lead actress. Luckily, local stage performer Heather Beers "became Charly" for both Anderegg and Weyland.
"I can't even read the book now without thinking of Heather's voice and face," Anderegg said.
"She really is Charly," Weyland agreed.
In fact, with Beers, Elliott and a slightly modified, expanded story in place, the novelist is convinced that Anderegg has come up with something that's better than his book.
"I'm finally satisfied with the story," he said. "This is how I originally envisioned it when I was writing my screenplay."
But Weyland isn't resting on his laurels. He's a physics professor at BYU-Idaho and continues to write. (His next project may not be as well-read as "Charly," considering it's a textbook.)
As for Anderegg, he's hoping that the movie version of "Charly" can come close to being as successful as the novel and that it helps launch his filmmaking career.
"We have some very exciting things in the works. But there's still a lot riding on the success of this film," he said.
"Charly" is a film 23 years in the making.
"I always thought it would make a good movie," said Jack Weyland, now 62, who wrote the book in 1979.
The 100-page romantic tearjerker was published in 1980 by Deseret Book and immediately sold well among Latter-day Saint teens. Weyland went on to write 21 more books -- with another one due next year -- but none surpassed "Charly" in popularity.
Still, no attempt has been made to produce a film version until now.
"People had asked through the years, but they didn't have the resources or skills," said Weyland, who teaches physics at BYU-Idaho. "Then Adam came along, and he was serious."
Adam is Adam Anderegg, a BYU graduate with a degree in film. He had loved the book since he was a teenager.
"It just spoke to me, more so than any other story," said Anderegg, now 32. "It had an element of authenticity. It just reads like a movie."
Kaleidoscope Pictures bought the screen rights in 1996 and commissioned Janine Whetten Gilberg, an English professor, to write the script. But at that point, there was little hope of putting an LDS-themed feature film in theaters and expecting it to make money.
Enter Richard Dutcher. The writer/director/actor's "God's Army" introduced the world to Mormon cinema -- Holywood, some have called it -- and opened the door for LDS filmmakers who wanted to tell LDS stories.
"There was no market before, no distribution system until 'God's Army,' " Weyland said. "Without that, there would be no market for these kinds of movies."
Anderegg had done a lot of work on films for the LDS Church, but had limited "real world experience."
"I don't mean that in a bad way," he said. "It's just very different doing a short for the church and doing a feature film. Different work environment, different budget, everything."
By the time Holywood was a vital force in the film world, Anderegg had gained enough experience working on "Touched by an Angel" and other projects to feel comfortable making "Charly." Shooting took place in Utah over 20 days last fall. The finished product is being released today by Excel Entertainment in 35 theaters in Utah and Idaho.
Weyland said other commitments prevented him from visiting the set during shooting, but that he is pleased with the adaptation of his work.
"As an experiment, I tell people who have read the book to list their favorite scenes," he said. "I'm almost certain those scenes will be in the movie."
Anderegg described Weyland as "very trusting and believing and supportive" during the entire process. He said that while some changes were made, mostly to update the 23-year-old story for 2002, "thematically, it's very close to the book."
Weyland gives the highest possible praise to the film.
"I think the movie is better than the book," he said. "Conflicts are more clearly shown in the movie. The highs are higher and the lows are lower."
Some will see "Charly" as a blast from the past. Others will see it as a timeless love story that crosses the boundaries of religion to touch on universal human themes.
So hopes "Charly" director Adam Thomas Anderegg, who directed the film version of "Charly," opening tonight at theaters through Utah and southeastern Idaho.
"I hope people come prepared to laugh, with maybe a few Kleenex in their pocket," Anderegg said. "We chose this story because we wanted to do a movie that had an impact and would help people to feel something deeper than what they normally feel."
The film is based on a 1980 Jack Weyland novel by the same name. That "Charly" became a top seller in Utah and several other states. The novel told the love story of Sam Roberts, a Salt Lake City resident and Mormon, guarded and practical, who believed he had the world and his own future figured out.
Then a blind date introduced him to Charly, a spontaneous, fun-loving, cynical New Yorker who had more zest for life than Sam imagined possible. But Charly was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"It's the story of an oil-and-water relationship, and how they change each other for what will be the best part of their lives," Anderegg said. "I think it's interesting that Sam is the one who changes the most."
When considering film projects, Anderegg said, he remembered how the novel "Charly" had moved him years earlier.
"The story had really affected me in a personal way," he said. "I knew it had been a best-selling book, and it had the potential to be a great love story and a successful film."
Salt Lake City actors Heather Beers and Jeremy Elliott play the romantic couple. Ogden actor Bernie Diamond also appears.
Test screenings with audiences at the University of California-Los Angeles and elsewhere have brought positive reviews, Anderegg said.
"People from different parts of the country and all walks of life seem to be really moved by the story," he said. "You don't have to be a Jack Weyland fan. Mormonism is just the background, like Judaism is for 'Fiddler on the Roof' or Notre Dame is for 'Rudy.' "
The novel "Charly" had been out of print for some years, and Deseret Book recently published a new edition of the old favorite. Anderegg said he has attended book signing events.
"It's interesting to see all the people who have followed the Jack Weyland books and to hear people talk about how people relate the stories to their own lives," Anderegg said. "Everyone brings their own experiences to the books, and I think they will to the film version of 'Charly,' too."
For more film information, visit www.charlythemovie.com.
RottenTomatoes.com freshness score: 22.2%
9 reviews counted: 2 positive; 7 negative
|Christian Spotlight on the Movies||Ken James||4 stars (out of 5)||78|
|Daily Herald / Land of Eric||Eric D. Snider||+||B-||67|
|St. George Spectrum||Bruce Bennett||+||B-||67|
|NixFlix.com Movie Reviews||3 1/2 stars (out of 5)||67|
|The Spokesman-Review (WA / ID) / Insight on the News||Dan Webster||2 1/2 stars (out of 4)||63|
|Ogden Standard-Examiner||Steve Salles||2 1/2 stars (out of 4)||63|
|Steve Rhodes' Internet Reviews||Steve Rhodes||-||2 1/2 stars (out of 4)||63|
|Tooele Transcript-Bulletin||Audrey Rock-Richardson||-||C+||59|
|The Scroll (BYU-Idaho)||Jeff Blake||3 stars (out of 5)||56|
|Sacramento Bee / Fresno Bee / Anchorage Daily News||Joe Baltake||-||2 stars (out of 4)||50|
|Arizona Daily Star||Phil Villarreal||-||2 stars (out of 4)||50|
|Salt Lake Tribune||Sean P. Means||-||2 stars (out of 4)||50|
|Deseret News||Jeff Vice||-||2 stars (out of 4)||50|
|Salt Lake City Weekly||Scott Renshaw||2 stars (out of 4)||50|
|Orange County Register||Craig Outhier||C-||42|
|Groucho Reviews||Peter Canavese||1.5 stars (out of 4)||38|
|The Arizona Republic||Richard Nilsen||1 star (out of 4)||25|
The following reviews were tabulated by RottenTomatoes.com (positive/negative), but did not include a "grade":
|L.A. Weekly||David Chute||-|
[Tom went to a press screening of "Charly" about ten days before the movie's official opening. These are his comments.]
The lesson of this film compared to many of the other LDS-themed films we have seen is this: It all starts with a good, well-written story. True, this is an oft-repeated saying in the movie business, but it bears repeating. My advice to all aspiring LDS filmmakers is this: take a bunch of extra time and get the script absolutely right before you ever start to get ready for production. Charly is a well-established story with a long track record, and the difference shows. The whole audience laughed and cried throughout. There were no weak points in the story, no moments which didn't seem character driven. As a result, the excellent acting seemed even better, the music seemed all the more fitting, the whole film from the cinematography to the sound effects just seemed a thousand times more professional than it would have otherwise. In sum, it all starts with the script. If you have the right story and a very well-written, well-polished script, it will be that much easier to do everything else well, because everything will come naturally. Without that, you're fighting an uphill battle all the way.
Fearless prediction: "Charly" will be the best-received of all LDS-themed films to date. Why? Because it gets LDS cinema right - the way it should be. It's been said that good science fiction is made up of good stories that happen to be set in space (or the future or whatever the sci-fi element is). "Charly" is a great story that happens to have LDS characters. True, their religious beliefs are an important part of who they are, just as it is for all of us, and these beliefs do play an important in the plot, simply because they are an important part of the characters. However, in the end, the story is character-driven, NOT religion-driven. Religion comes into play because of the who the characters are, not the other way around.
Sean Means, of the Salt Lake Tribune, gave a bunch of advice to LDS filmmakers. The best thing he said is this: "Don't try to make the best LDS movie. Just try to make the best movie. The rest will sort itself out." That is why, in my opinion, "Charly" succeeds. It's simply a great movie that just happens to be an LDS movie.
Walking away from the theater, I couldn't help but think that "Charly" by all rights should have been the first successful LDS Cinema film - nothing against "God's Army" of course. It just should have been made into a film long ago. That's how right they got it.
Our Rating: ** 1/2 [2 1/2 stars out of 4]
Utah has to be the only place in the universe where if you mentioned the movie "Charly," people wouldn't immediately think of Cliff Robertson's Academy Award-winning performance in the adaptation of "Flowers for Algernon."
This isn't THAT "Charly." This is Jack Weyland's "Charly," the most popular LDS novel of all time.
And you know when a filmmaker dares to tell "the story" that everyone around here knows backward and forward, he'd better get it right -- or "the miracle of forgiveness" may not be enough to save him.
Charly (Heather Beers) has come to Utah to visit her family, who's living here because of her dad's business. She has left behind a potential fiance in New York City, who has asked the question but is still awaiting the answer.
Desperate to get his daughter's mind off the NYC guy, Charly's father convinces one of his employees to send his same-aged son to the airport to pick up Charly.
Sam (Jeremy Elliott) is bribed to do the favor and runs head-on into this feminine force of nature.
Charly thinks Sam is a nerd and a bore. Sam thinks Charly is insane and completely out of control. However, they're intrigued by each other.
Sam will eventually teach Charly about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Charly will have a change of heart about a lot of things -- not the least of which is the guy back in New York.
First of all, Heather Beers was the perfect Charly. She seemed completely natural in her playful irreverence, as well as portraying the more serious side of her spiritual conversion and later life struggles.
Jeremy Elliott, however, did not seem nearly as comfortable. His performance felt constricted, and his chemistry with Heather was missing. Frankly, I thought he did a much better job as the nonmember boyfriend in "Out of Step."
I was pleasantly surprised by the work of first-time director Adam Thomas Anderegg, who made the most of his budget of under $1 million. He shows a lot of potential and may be one of the bright, young hopefuls in a growing LDS-based movie industry.
I was also quite taken with the film's score provided by Aaron Merrill. Thank goodness it wasn't just more rehash of favorite LDS hymns.
I thought the story got a little too long, but that was mainly because the filmmakers didn't want to let go of their best character.
Charly's parents were too melodramatic, as was the strange New York boyfriend who offered even less chemistry with Charly and only managed to create the offensive air required for the story.
And lest I forget, take a lot of Kleenex. There is a bunch of weeping and wailing in the last half hour (most of you who know the story will know why).
Basically, this is the quintessential LDS chick flick. For you guys who gut it out with a reassuring smile and a comforting embrace, you'll be heroes for a day. That is, unless you say something stupid like, "That was a waste of 14 bucks!"
Though it is probably the most popular Latter-day Saint teen romance novel of all time, Jack Weyland's "Charly" is nonetheless a very bad book. It attempts to compress a lengthy story spanning several years into 100 pages, rushing through every conflict like a videotape on fast-forward. Characters behave irrationally and change suddenly, all in the apparent interest of getting the whole thing over with in less time than most books choose to allot themselves.
Its potential as a movie, then, was considerable: Films are better equipped than books to squeeze a lot of information into a short space. Plenty of movies successfully depict characters' entire lives and still occupy no more than a couple hours; books usually need a few hundred pages to accomplish that.
Directed with great competence and compassion by first-timer Adam Thomas Anderegg, the film version of the book (adapted by Janine Whetten Gilbert) is true to Weyland's story while expanding and improving it.
Charlene "Charly" Riley (Heather Beers) is a fun-loving girl visiting family in Salt Lake City. She is set up with -- foisted upon, perhaps -- Sam Roberts (Jeremy Elliott), a strait-laced, humorless Mormon lad. They are destined to fall in love, of course -- but she has a fiance (Adam Johnson) back in New York, and her parents (Gary Neilson and Lisa McCammon) are fearful of her increasing interest in Sam and his Mormonism.
That's the first half of the movie, the happy half. Then comes the weepy half. The book tells you the outcome up front, but the film doesn't, so I won't say any more.
The film stock is good; the cinematography is nice; the supporting cast is strong; the production values all indicate professionalism and talent. But the movie's greatest asset and liability are its two stars.
As Charly, newcomer Heather Beers is splendid. I don't even like Charly in the beginning -- she's too flighty and single-mindedly free-spirited -- yet I like Beers in spite of my issues with her character. She has charm, energy and wit.
"Charly" earns the audience's tears at the end, rather than forcing them out of us, because of Beers' commitment and skill level. By the end, she has deftly woven maturity and gravity into Charly's persona.
Her co-star, Jeremy Elliott -- in his third LDS film this year -- does not fare as well. In his first scene, he seems relatively normal. Almost instantly, in the next scene, he is nerdy and uptight. He overdoes the "repressed Mormon boy" bit to the point that he becomes one-dimensional.
As a result, the film's third act -- which should be about whether faith has practical applications in real life -- falters, failing to completely address the issues it needs to. Elliott's performance simply isn't compelling enough to shoulder the weight of the film without Beers next to him. His soon-to-be-infamous "breakdown" scene, which involves throwing a lot of paint around, is one of the least convincing moments in recent memory.
The movie's sentiments are lovely, and for the most part they are expressed well. To the extent that Mormon doctrine is present, it is delivered without much sermonizing. It is a likable story, told with competence.
** [2 out of 4 stars]
Jeremy Elliott, Heather Beers, Adam Johnson, Jackie Winterrose-Fullerup, Randy King, Diana Dunkley, Gary Neilson, Lisa McCammon; rated PG (mild vulgarity, brief violence); see the "On the Screen" listing on Page W2 for complete listing of local theaters.
How movie patrons respond to the feature film version of "Jack Weyland's Charly" may depend on their feelings about the printed-page version of the story.
If, on one hand, they were swept up by the best-selling novel's quaint and old-fashioned romance and touched by its ultimate message (the timelessness of love), this fairly faithful adaptation -- in spirit, if not actual content -- will probably enchant.
However, those who weren't as taken by the novel -- which has been described, and not unfairly, as the LDS equivalent of Erich Segal's "Love Story" -- will probably find it a little too manipulative, even maudlin.
The title character is Charlene Riley (Heather Beers), a free-spirited New York art student who's back in her hometown of Salt Lake City for a visit. Her reluctant tour guide is Sam Robertson (Jeremy Elliott), a squeaky-clean, LDS computer-science major.
Their brief "date" winds up lasting longer than one night. It turns out that non-member Charly is intrigued by Sam's beliefs. So much so that she decides to investigate his church and even winds up falling for him. (He, of course, has already gone ga-ga for this female whirlwind.)
Needless to say, her parents are horrified, as is her fiance back in New York. But there's more than that standing in the way of their romance -- she's got a "past," and there's at least one other major storm on the horizon.
Making his feature filmmaking debut, director Adam Thomas Anderegg impresses (the movie is pretty well-paced, though it does lag a bit in the final third). But the story skips around too much -- it's unclear how much time has elapsed between certain scenes.
The film's real problem, though, is that the romance between the leads isn't as compelling or as believable as it should be. While Beers does make Charly endearing and appealing, some of her line delivery is stiff.
As for Elliott, he has impressed previously (particularly in "Out of Step"). As the nebbishy Sam, though, his performance lacks subtlety and his "progression" to a less-dorky version of the character isn't convincing.
The supporting cast is solid, though, especially Jackie Winterrose-Fullerup, who plays Charly's supportive grandmother; and Adam Johnson, who co-stars as her New York boyfriend.
** (2 out of 4 stars)
A popular LDS-themed novel hits the big screen, with mixed results.
Rated PG for thematic elements; 103 minutes.
Opening today at area theaters.
Derivative, manipulative and as sugary as green Jell-O, the made-in-Utah romantic drama "Charly" does nonetheless have a few things going for it.
The best of those is Heather Beers, the Salt Lake City actress who plays Charly, the heroine of Jack Weyland's 1980 novel (required reading, I'm told, for teen LDS girls). Charly is a vivacious New York gal who lands in Salt Lake City and into the life of Sam (Jeremy Elliott), a dull-as-dirt BYU grad.
Charly, who likes to ride Ferris wheels and wade in the Temple Square reflecting pool, teaches Sam to loosen up a little. Sam, a devout member of the LDS Church, introduces Charly to the Book of Mormon and the notion of love that goes beyond " 'til death do us part." The rest of the movie follows the tragic-romance formula -- imagine the CleanFlicks version of "Love Story," with Ali MacGraw's profanities replaced by romance-novel platitudes.
"Charly" suffers from a syrupy script (credited to Janine Whetten Gilbert, an English professor at BYU-Idaho) and some contrived situations involving Charly's disapproving parents and New York boyfriend (Adam Johnson). Its biggest weakness is Elliott (seen in "Out of Step"), an actor so stiff that he is often outacted by the furniture.
The movie's most intriguing plot development -- not the romance, but Charly's conversion to the LDS faith -- is also the most problematic. Because Charly comes to the Book of Mormon as a professed intellectual, the questing viewer might hope for a solid point-for-point discussion of LDS doctrine (something even the missionary drama "God's Army" provided, albeit briefly). Instead, Charly's acceptance of her new faith is fast and unflinching, even in the face of death, and an opportunity to explore the complexities of belief is lost.
Beers shows impressive range as she conveys Charly's exuberance, joy and quiet intensity. And first-time director Adam Thomas Anderegg creates moments that, in spite of the schmaltz, produce a lump in the throat. "Charly" has little you haven't seen before, but its grasp of the familiar is strong.
She received the movie role by default but filled the part perfectly.
Logan resident and first-time child actor Courtney Morton made her silver screen debut Friday in the new movie "Charly," based on the popular LDS novel of the same name.
"They needed a brown-haired, blue-eyed, 9-month-old and they saw her and cast her and she was perfect," Pamela Morton said of her daughter's acting debut.
Courtney, who at the young age of 9 months could pass as a boy, spent about one week last September on the set of "Charly" playing the role of baby Adam.
Morton, who worked on the film as a script supervisor, said her daughter enjoyed her first movie-making experience.
"She loved it," Morton said. "If you see the movie you can see how she really enjoyed being around the actors."
The character of Adam had originally been given to another toddler, but for reasons unknown to Morton, the child's parents took the baby out of the role at the last minute, leaving the director to find a replacement.
The story of "Charly" centers around the relationship and eventual love affair of a bright-eyed, quick-witted girl (Charly) from New York and a straight-laced computer science major from Brigham Young University. The story explores the themes of love, laughter, religion, the miracle of life and the tragedy of young death.
Morton said the film's director, Adam Thomas Anderegg, made an audience-friendly movie that both Mormons and non-Mormons would enjoy.
"The director did not want it to be a preachy LDS movie," Morton said. "He was so adamant about that. ... He wanted it (Mormonism) as just a theme in the movie to add more depth to the characters. It's essential in the movie because that's what drives the love story."
Morton, who has been a production assistant for big screen and television movies since 1997, said she jumped at the opportunity to work on the film.
She recalled being asked to participate in the movie: "Producer Lance Williams called me at 10 p.m. the night before the shooting (began) and asked if I wanted to be script supervisor, and I said sure."
Though Morton worked long hours every day, Courtney was limited by law to six hours a day.
"She was asleep when they needed her to be and she was awake when they needed her to be," Morton said.
In addition to sleeping and waking, Courtney's role also involved a limited amount of dialogue.
"She says 'momma' and 'dadda' and claps and laughs," Morton said.
The Morton family attended the Salt Lake City premiere of "Charly" last week. Also in attendance was the book's writer, Jack Weyland.
"He said the movie was better than his book," Morton said.
Pamela and Courtney, along with friends and family, also attended the Logan premiere of the movie Friday at Westates Theatres Movies 5.
"Friday, we invited a lot of our friends to go," Morton said. "It will be fun to see the reaction of fresh faces."
Courtney, who is now almost 2 years old, couldn't say what she thought of seeing herself on the big screen.
"I don't know if she recognizes herself," Morton said. "We're (parents) both not really sure."
"Charly" is rated PG. It is scheduled to open nationwide next year.
"It's a great date movie," Morton said.