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Film / Charly (2002)

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Real love stories have no ending.
"I always believed that love was fairly uncomplicated. You found the perfect woman, gorgeous but practical. You married, settled down with children, mini-van, mortgage, and lived quietly, predictably, happily ever after. That was my dream, until she came into my life."
Sam Roberts

Charly is a 2002 romantic film directed by Adam Thomas Anderegg based on Jack Weyland's book of the same name. Sam Roberts (Jeremy Elliott) is a devout Mormon from Utah who likes to sees the world in black and white. He meets Charlene "Charly" Riley (Heather Beers), a painter from New York who sees the world in a lot more color, turning Sam's world upside down. She's almost engaged to a man named Mark Randolph (Adam Johnson), though her parents don't really like him. However, when she starts to show a romantic interest in Sam, her parents now want to recruit Mark to win her back.

The film was re-released in 2012 in immersive 3-D with a couple new scenes.


Tropes appearing in the film:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The date where Sam and Charly take a child to the zoo as Parents for a Day isn't included. A lot of Charly and Sam's marital life described in the book is also cut out.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the book Mark was jealous and underhanded, at one point he hires a private investigator to ruin a date Sam has with Charly. But in the film, instead of feeling threatened by Sam he just seems to be amused by him and when he gets rejected by Charly he accepts her decision gracefully.
  • Beard of Barbarism. Downplayed with Mark. He has a full beard, shaggy hair, and a temporal worldview.
  • Betty and Veronica: A male example. Sam is the stable but spiritual Betty while Mark is the exciting but worldly Veronica.
  • Big Apple Sauce: Charly is from New York City. She returns when she and Sam have a brief falling out. Sam then follows her there in an attempt to win her back when he realizes that her past doesn't matter.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Charly surprises Sam at the park in Utah and says she still loves him, and they kiss, which cuts to them kissing at their wedding.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Edward Riley, Charly's father. He doesn't care for either of her suitors and he's also concerned when she begins to convert to Mormonism.
  • Canon Foreigner: Charly's grandmother Ena isn't mentioned in the book.
  • Cool Car: Sam's father owns a red 1964 Ford Mustang Convertible. He lets Sam use it on his first date with Charly.
  • Cool Old Lady: Charly's grandmother Ena has an upbeat personality.
  • Country Mouse: Sam is clearly out of his element when he arrives in New York City to win back Charly.
  • Creator Cameo: The director appears in the elevator of Charly's New York apartment. In the DVD commentary, the director says the crew had to convince him to make a cameo.
  • Crisis of Faith: After Charly gets diagnosed with cancer, Sam starts wondering if the after-life is all just a lie and if faith is really useful. This is in contrast to how Charly handles the situation with faith.
  • Crosscast Role: 9-month-old Adam is played by a baby girl.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: By her own admission Charly's father does not care for her taste in men.
  • Dedication: "This film is dedicated to the loved ones (friends, family, and talented professionals) who supported the filmmakers in every way. We 'take off our shoes' to you."
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Charly can be quite facetious and sarcastic at times, especially when she first meets Sam.
    • Mark can be quite sarcastic as well.
  • Defiled Forever: Downplayed compared to how this trope is played in the original book, though likewise subverted. Sam has a hard time getting over Charly's past behavior but realizes she has changed since he first met her.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Sam Roberts. He is very rigid and uptight at the start of the film, but gradually he loosens up thanks to Charly's influence.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Mark is Charly's fiance in all but name and some reviews go as far as to call him one. When the film begins they live together and are discussing marriage with each other and his relationship with her is really the biggest obstacle keeping her from being with Sam.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Charly does this on their first date, much to Sam's consternation.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Charly does not like being called by her birth name, Charlene.
  • Easy Evangelism: At first Charly doesn't believe anything the missionaries tell her, but when she reads the Book of Mormon she's instantly converted.
  • The End: The credits say "Not The End".
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Charly is portrayed by a blonde actress (her hair color isn't specified in the book).
  • Ferris Wheel Date Moment: Charly drags Sam to the fair and hops on the Ferris wheel, where she flirts a little bit with Sam.
  • The Film of the Book: Based on the 1980 book Charly.
  • Foil: Sam is formal, clean cut, provincial and close with his parents. Mark is casual, bearded, sophisticated and aloof with his mother.
  • Forced from Their Home: When Charly returns to her apartment she tells Mark he can no longer live with her and abruptly throws him out.
  • Irony: When Charly falls in love with Sam her father tries to help Mark win her back. The only reason Charly even met Sam to begin with is because her father was trying to get her to break up with Mark!
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Mark fails in his attempt to win back Charly he accepts her decision, wishes her the best, and bows out.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: The movie is billed as Jack Weyland's Charly on some posters.
  • Insult of Endearment: Charly calls Sam "Utah" after he botches his introduction. She later uses it as a term of endearment after they get married.
  • Lost Love Montage: Charly and Sam are given one after Sam gets kicked out of New York, and it ends with Charly returning to Sam.
  • Love Triangle: The film starts with Charly being almost engaged to Mark. She gets romantically interested in Sam and ultimately chooses to marry him.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Charly plays this trope straight. She's a art student from New York who believes life is meant to be lived. Sam is an uptight and regimented computer sciences student. She enters his life and turns it upside down; and she enjoys doing so in the process.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never fully explained how Charly left a note for Sam while she's suffering from cancer. It could be she mustered some strength to write and place the note before she went to the hospital, or it could be Charly's gift from heaven. In any case, it's definitely that miracle Sam was begging for.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Sam gives Charly a Ferris wheel musicbox with the line, "I'll save you a place in line." After Charly dies, Sam finds a note from Charly with this same line.
    • When Charly meets Sam again in Utah, she says she's God told her she was a "glutton for punishment", meaning someone willing to do hard things. She repeats this line when she's on the Ferris wheel with Sam before she goes to the hospital for cancer treatment.
  • Momma's Boy:
    • Sam is very close to his mother. He visits her often and goes to her for life advice, which he takes seriously.
    • Averted with Mark who doesn't keep in touch with his mother, much to her annoyance.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Mark is given the last name Randolph. In the book his last name is never mentioned.
  • Not So Above It All: After they marry Sam joins Charly in pranking fellow customers while they are out grocery shopping.
  • Nostalgic Musicbox: Sam gives Charly a Ferris wheel musicbox with the note, "I'll save you a place in line." Charly later leaves a note to Sam on this musicbox, saying, "The ride is not over yet, Utah. I'll save your place in line. I love you."
  • Oh, Crap!: Sam when Charly gets behind the wheel of his fathers classic Mustang convertible and Drives Like Crazy through the streets of Salt Lake City!
  • Opposites Attract: Charly is a carefree art student from New York City while Sam is an uptight computer science major from Utah.
  • Parent-Preferred Suitor: Charly's parents don't care for Mark, but he comes from the same cultural background they do. So they'd rather see her with him.
  • Product Placement: Sam and Charly both use Southwest Airlines to travel between Utah and New York. According to the directors commentary Southwest was eager to be featured in the film and provided them with ample stock footage of their aircraft to use.
  • The Prankster: Charly Riley. She loves pulling pranks on other people, especially the uptight Sam.
  • Public Exposure: Sam meets Charly in class while she's painting a nude lady, much to his own embarrassment.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Charly's parents attempt to derail Sam and Charly's budding romance by arranging for Mark to make an unannounced appearance at Charly's art show.
  • Romantic Candlelit Dinner: In order to woo Charly back to him, Mark prepares one of these for her.
  • Romantic False Lead: Mark Randolph. At the beginning of the movie Mark and Charly are "practically engaged". When she goes to Utah for the summer Mark actually laughs at the idea of Charly leaving him for a Mormon man. And that's exactly what happens!
  • Say My Name: Adam says "mommy" for the first time just before Charly goes to the hospital and dies.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Sam breaks up with Charly when he learns of her previous relationships.
  • Setting Update: The book was released in 1980, and the film features technology popular in the early 2000s (Charly videotelephones with Mark, and Sam has a Palm device).
  • Shout-Out:
  • Tantrum Throwing: Sam overturns a table and smacks a chair against the wall to show his anger that God might not heal Charly from her cancer.
  • Time Skip: The story skips two years after Sam and Charly's marriage.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sam's mother calls him out when he's unable to overlook Charly's past.
  • Women Are Wiser:
    • The women give most of the advice in the film, a fact noted by the director in the DVD commentary. Charly's grandmother encourages her to do things that are right for her, and Sam's mother (filling the role of Sam's bishop in the book) teaches him that Charly isn't Defiled Forever by her past actions.
    • Subverted near the end of the film, where Sam's dad gives his son a lecture on faith and enduring trials. In the DVD commentary, the producers say they originally had this scene scripted for Sam's mother (hence the milk and cookies) but decided it would be more powerful with his father.

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