The World According to Charlie
I really like "Reign Over Me" I found it fascinatingly curious, a movie which is quirky, touching, dramatic and strange all rolled into one. It is why when I glanced through various opinions before watching that I found very different opinions, some thought it tried too hard, some thought it was brilliant, then you have those who think it is about love or grief or trauma or depression. It is as if "Reign Over Me" speaks to people in different ways, with people picking up on different themes and if that is the case it just adds to its fascinating curious side.
Dentist Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle - Ocean's Twelve) has it all, a nice home, wife and children plus he is a partner in a dental surgery. But between work and family he is struggling to deal with things as he has no time for himself. That is until one day he spots his old college roommate Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler - Click) in the street and manages to grab his attention. Charlie since the September 11th attacks has shut himself off in his own world as he lost his wife and children on the plane and does everything he can to block out everything and anyone who will remind him off the family he lost. Realising how emotionally damaged Charlie is Alan sets about trying to help his old friend and at the same time inadvertently helping himself.
So what did I pick up on, well for me "Reign Over Me" is a movie of rediscovery, of two men in very different places in their lives rediscovering who they are. On one hand we have dentist Alan Johnson who through being busy with work and busy with family he no longer knows himself and through meeting up with old college buddy Charlie and trying to help him deal with his situation inadvertently rediscovers who he is as well and what is important to him. In a way Johnson's rediscovery is a sub plot as the focus is very much on Charlie but it is no less interesting as he feels that beyond work and family he has nothing, that is until he ends up hanging out with Charlie and has some time away.
But as I already mentioned the focus of "Reign Over Me" is on Charlie Fineman and his rediscovery having closed himself off from the past following the trauma of loosing his family in the September 11 attacks but whilst there is this surprising and in some ways clever connection to the September 11 attacks this isn't a story about that. What we have is Johnson finding himself drawn into Charlie's world, a world of avoidance as he does what ever he can to block out anything that will remind him off the family he lost. We learn he doesn't want to talk about the past because it is too painful and when he finally agrees to have some help it causes major problems. But ever so slowly on his own terms Charlie does start to deal with his past and the emotional pain it causes. And don't worry that isn't a spoiler because there is heck of a lot going on in "Reign Over Me" which all contribute to a fascinating story
On the subject matter of a lot going on not all of it works. Mike Binder who wrote and directed "Reign Over Me" throws a lot at us with a lot of quirky and strange aspects none more so than the character of Donna Remar who on a visit to Alan for some dental work offers him oral sex. Why? I really am not entirely sure and whilst in fairness Donna's character is part of the bigger picture it is a very curious way of introducing her. And that is not the only thing which is quirky and strange and unfortunately at times it to not only struggle to make sense but also ends up feeling forced.
Now of course there is the acting and whilst there are various recognizable actors in supporting roles such as Liv Tyler and Saffron Burrows as well as Don Cheadle as Alan "Reign Over Me" ends up being all about Adam Sandler as Charlie Fineman. But here is the great thing, it's good that it's all about Sandler because this is Sandler showing us what he should be doing, acting rather than churning out the same old comedies, because frankly he is good in a serious role. There is real emotion to Sandler's performance which is so touching especially in the scene when he opens up about the loss of his family but even when he is trying to shut himself off there is also emotion, that feeling of a seriously damaged man struggling to cope in a world of memories. What is almost ironic is that Charlie in his state of denial is a little obnoxious and rude and in a way is a little similar to one of Sandler's usual characters but because he has this emotional underbelly feeding the obnoxiousness it is much more powerful. I would love to go on and tell you more about Sandler's performance but I won't because it is a joy to watch him in a rare serious role.
What this all boils down to is that "Reign Over Me" is fascinatingly curious with a storyline which whilst spoke to me about two men rediscovering who they are also speaks to people in different ways. It's not perfect, at times it tries too hard to be quirky but the emotional under belly of the story is brilliant as is Adam Sandler who shows that he is capable of a lot more than playing annoying funny guys.