I always hated this movie, and I think I liked the play when I was younger. But I am mixed again on the book itself. Like the Simpsons episode that parodies it, this book is about Charley, a young man with a significant cognitive disability who begins undergoing a series of experimental treatments to repair and bypass the damage of his disability. As this takes hold he is more able to understand his world, the people in it, and the world of academic knowledge, complex thought, language, science, and ultimately his own brain and disability.
He’s unable, however, to understand the complexities of emotion for a long time. He finds out that being highly intelligent doesn’t teach you about sex and love and the subtleties of human connections and communication. It also makes you more aware of the ways in which people treat you. It also gives you insight, if not the necessary tools, to understand past traumas. And it makes so aware (if you didn’t happen to be previously) of your own limits and mortality.
So obviously this book doesn’t hold up in terms of language used to describe disabilities and goes into odd and saddening forays into homophobic tropes and slurs. And ultimately I think this one takes a lot of risks, and some of them probably felt revolutionary and exciting for awhile, and now seems outdated. The book is like its subject. It was ahead of its time with scientific reasoning, but ultimately limited in its ability to understand the complex emotional themes it tries to deal with.