(Oct. 1) -- In 1980, Jack Weyland, a physics professor and wannabe writer, published "Charly," a modern three-hanky romance novel with a Mormon background. It became a regional hit, and in the '80s, every woman in the state of Utah, every coed at BYU, Ricks College, and the U of U (and any guy who wanted to date or otherwise impress them) read the book.
Now the book has been updated some 20 years and made into a rather well-done modern romance.
Thirty years ago, it was the LDS equivalent of "Love Story." No guy would admit to liking it; no critic would admire it -- but no woman would pass up seeing it.
In the movie, which opened last weekend, Charly (Heather Beers) is Charlene Riley, an artist from New York who is visiting Salt Lake City to see her parents, who have recently moved there. She is "dumped" on Sam Roberts (Jeremy Elliott) by her father, who doesn't approve of her New York boyfriend.
Sam is young, idealistic, and naive. Charly hits him like a hurricane. Of course they fall in love. Any more would spoil the story for the four people in the state who still haven't read the book.
"Charly" has several things going for it.
First, it's a well-made movie. The production values are such that you cannot tell it was shot on a small budget in only 20 days. The script adaptation by Janine Whetten-Gilbert is witty, literate, and faithful. There have been changes from the novel, but it is faithful to the theme and the intent of the original.
In the book Charly is a philosophy student who ends up selling Avon. In the movie, she is an artist who ends up painting on commission. Laptop computers with built-in video cameras didn't exist in 1980, but the film makes excellent use of one now. Also, the character of Ena, Charly's grandmother and teacher has been added, to great effect.
A second reason to like the movie is the story. It's very Mormon in its content, but it's universal in its appeal. It's about faith and romance and redemption and forgiveness and loyalty and happily-ever-aftering in a cynical world -- all of which are non-denominational. These people just happen to be Mormon.
A final reason to recommend the movie is the performance of the actress in the title role. Heather Beers is not only exceptional, she is a find. Growing up the daughter of a community-theater mom in Southern California, Heather learned -- by watching and then doing -- how to move and perform on a stage. Some people can be taught to project and act; this lady is as close to a natural as anyone I have ever seen. Her face, her laugh, every detail of her body is in character and riveting. When she is on the screen, she owns it.
Jeremy Elliott ("Brigham City," "The Testaments') is good as the smitten Sam. He starts off a little stiffly, but grows on us, as he grows on Charly.
I was also impressed by the direction of first-time director Adam Thomas Anderegg. I kept looking for flaws, and while I found some, they are so insignificant that to mention them here would be nit-picking, and the manner in which Anderegg does everything else right far outweighs any mistakes.
* Bottom Line: Here is a film that is as close to mainstream as anything locally produced for the "Mormon" audience. Anyone who has ever fallen in love, lost his faith, or suffered unspeakable heartache will appreciate this movie.
It's rated PG and runs 101 minutes.
Heather Beers is Charly, a free-spirited New Yorker who comes to Utah in the movie "Jack Weyland's Charly." (Courtesy of Focused Light and Kaleidoscope Pictures)
Sent to pick her up at the airport,recently returned LDS missionary Sam (Jeremy Elliott) is out of his league when he meets Charly (Heather Beers) for the first time in the new feature "Charly." (Courtesy of Focused Light and Kaleidoscope Pictures)
Charly (Heather Beers) confronts Mark (Adam Johnson), her boyfriend from New York, while her parents (Lisa McCammon and Gary Neilson) watch. (Courtesy of Focused Light and Kaleidoscope Pictures)
Jack Weyland's Charly * * [2 stars out of 4] The 1980 Mormon tearjerker that has dampened many an adolescent Saint's pillow gets a feature film treatment that demonstrates what can go most wrong with tearjerkers and with Mormon movies. Jeremy Elliott plays stolid young devout Mormon Sam; Heather Beers takes on the title role, a free-spirited New York gentile. They do the meet-cute when Charly comes to visit family in Utah, they fall in love, she converts, he loosens up and heartbreaks follow. The standard-issue melodrama is frustrating (if predictable) enough, especially when coupled with far too many episodes of forced whimsy. What's even more frustrating (if equally predictable) is watching yet another LDS narrative turn into an exercise in serene hand-holding. The conflict carries all the kick of a frustrated Little Leaguer booting second base after a close call, because this story by the faithful and for the faithful isn't really about asking hard questions. It's about making you feel good about how you already see the world, no matter how many cathartic tears it squeezes out of you along the way. Thank Heavenly Father for Beers' performance, alternately spunky and genuinely emotional. Charly herself has plenty of life; the film that bears her name is always waiting for something better from the next life. Opens Sept. 27 at theaters valley-wide. (PG) -SR
For me, being the solitary male in a theater full of young girls ranging from age four to 40 was a bit intimidating.
The film was most definitely a chick flick, I might go so far as to say it's a date movie, and yet there I sat, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound-plus beacon of masculinity, surrounded by the Britney Spears and Martha Stewart set.
Nevertheless, as I sat there, a lone man in a theater full of femininity, I managed to find a certain tenderness in Chary that breached even my taut manly exterior.
The film, an adaptation of Jack Weyland's best-selling novel among LDS youth, revolves around the title character Charly, played by Heather Beers.
She is a playful rambunctious art student from New York who comes to Utah to stay with her parents. There, she meets Sam (Jeremy Elliott), an uptight and naive returned missionary with fairy tale notions of love.
Charly eventually becomes curious about Sam's "Mormon" way of life, and begins to wonder about the way her own life is heading.
As Sam helps to provide answers to her important questions, she, in return, teaches him a thing or two about repentance and overcoming the past.
The film follows their courtship as they become romantically involved and must learn to deal with faith and tragedy.
The story, written by Weyland, a physics professor here at BYU-Idaho, is simple and direct in its message, and the film adaptation is a lively and vibrant depiction.
Most of the acting, particularly by Heather Beers, provides vital energy to drive the story. At times Elliott, who plays Sam, seems a bit wooden, particularly in scenes where he is supposed to show emotional tension; eventually, he seems to relax and finds his niche within the film.
The tone of Charly is buoyant, and often has the nostalgic feel of a film from the 1950s. Charly may seem cheesy in comparison to other films of today, and perhaps LDS produced films have a little bit further to go both technically, and artistically. However, it offers a lucid and introspective tale of faith and trust; and amid those films that fail to inspire and uplift audiences, it may offer an escape from the norm.
Rating: 3/5 stars
The movie "Charly" wasn't made on a Hollywood budget. Instead, it was a collaboration brought together by Brigham Young University buddies (all graduated in the early 1990s) who went for a fat, sleek look on a budgetary diet. And they edited the entire film on a laptop.
"I think it's still unusual, especially when we started it," Merrill said. "Because of the computer power involved, we needed a system that cost tens of thousands of dollars just to edit."
Instead, they used Apple's Mac Titanium PowerBook G4, a program called Final Cut Pro and another called FilmLogic. All together, the equipment cost about $7,000. And since the "holy grail for editors is being able to carry the equipment around and edit an entire feature film," Merrill said it was exciting.
Editing "Charly," based on a book by Jack Weyland and released by Excel Entertainment Group, took about nine months. The editors used quite-new mini-DV technology, which was fast enough to let them process DV without additional video cards, which cost thousands and are generally mandatory. Merrill said they turned the signal into motion JPEG using DV and Firewire combined.
Working in DV mode, the quality was good enough to make editing decisions and even to show a client. In some cases, you can finish a product in DV, but he went back to the original film to do it.
Each frame of film has a code, called an edge code, similar to the little numbers on each picture in a roll of standard 35 mm film. It's basically a way to track shots. When a movie is shot, the film is transferred to video, which gives a "flex code," he said, containing the edge code. FilmLogic linked it up and kept track, adjusting the slight speed difference of the film and video so they would match up during transfer.
When a film is edited, an edit-decision list is sent to a negative-cutting facility. There is no room for mistakes, because the original film is cut to match the editing decisions. "Once you cut the film, you're done," Merrill said. You can't undo it.
Using the two programs, although it was the first feature film he had done, he was able to create a perfect cut list.
Many films now use Final Cut Pro; Showtime uses it all the time. Final Cut Pro even won an Emmy.
The sheer portability of the editing system was a major boon when the producers of "Charly" wanted to show the movie to interest a company in a marketing deal. "We brought the whole system with us and set it up, so instead of watching a video tape, we showed it off on the editing system, which for presentation purposes is a much better system."
"It was a totally good experience," he said.
"What I think it does is open the door to creative freedom."
Merrill said renting a film-editing system could cost $2,000 a week from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., with the knowledge he could be bumped if a bigger project came in.
Instead, with his laptop and by hotswapping two external drives as needed and using a Sony converter box and the two programs, the editing equipment came in for about the cost of three weeks' rental on an editing studio.
"Professional results aren't guaranteed," he said, because you have to know -- or learn -- what you're doing. "But you can. And it all fits into one carrying case."
As for the "buddy" factor, Adam Thomas Anderegg, who directed the movie, and Merrill together formed Kaleidoscope Pictures. Another BYU friend and "Charly" producer, Lance Williams, has Focused Light Films. They called their collaboration Cinergy Films. Merrill's brother, Aaron, did the music, and they brought in some other friends who work professionally in movie production, as well.
A scene from Jack Weyland's popular LDS story "Charly" is brought to life on the big screen with the help of a small screen: a Mac Titanium PowerBook G4 laptop computer. Edit decisions were made on the laptop, and then the film was cut and assembled at a lab. The movie is now playing at local theaters.]