Reign Over Me: 4 Stars (out of 5)
Feel-good movies are a tricky subject. They’re usually pretty slim on story lines (meet good guy, meet good guy hit rough patch, meet good guy emerge a better person from this terrible predicament,) and somewhat exploitative of those gooey feelings tied up all over your torso. Most of the time, they work purely because of a strong emotional core that’s sure to instill happy feelings inside all of its audience; but at the same time, they are often intellectually stiff and have little to say that hasn’t been said and re-said millions of times before it. It makes Reign Over Me, a feel-gooder itself, all the more easy to appreciate – it’s a serious drama that tests the capabilities of friendship and the ability of men to help their brothers out.
Guys are pretty simple. We talk about sports, beer and most of all, boobs. If we’re nerds, we may talk about video games or music instead of sports. That’s all there really is.
So what’s a dude to do when he finds an old friend that needs to be confronted, that needs to be helped? This is not a comfortable matter for any gender, but how does a guy try to help out his best friend without driving him away? Reign Over Me takes on this difficult situation both competently, responsibly and in a fashion that can be more that just entertaining and engaging – it’s almost therapeutic.
Don Cheadle stars as a father stuck between the two worlds of work and family, and he’s sick of it. Desperate for a reason not to spend Friday night solving jigsaw puzzles with the wife, he latches onto college roommate and recently reacquainted friend Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler.) The only catch – five years after 9/11 took the lives of his family, Charlie’s still blocking out the world in order to avoid having to walk down the painful five stages of grief. He’s not just a shut-in – he attacks loved ones when they bring up anything having to do with his life before it came falling down.
Cheadle has become a reliably strong actor, and this film does nothing to change that; but Sandler proves to be an enigma. Homey can act, which makes this writer wonder why the in the name of the Lorne Michaels he made the mess known as Click. Why doesn’t a guy with as much talent as Sandler (see: Punch-Drunk Love) just reserve the inner comedian for movies that don’t suck monkey dick, while pursuing more worthwhile films like Reign Over Me at the same time? But the glory for this film goes to writer/director/producer/supporting actor Mike Binder, who takes on this difficult film with the delicacy it requires. He’s really put together a touching while not sappy film that houses just as many solid laughs as it does heart-breaks.
As we watch Fineman and the people in his life try to help him past his monumental hurdle, we stress out and feel a release whenever he makes another step forward. To a less-intense degree, Binder is successfully putting us right there with his challenged characters to commiserate and live with. The film is an unexpected treat in this non-autumn time of year. It’s rare to receive an authentic and emotionally mature film like Reign Over Me in March, one that could have snatched up some mentions of Oscar if it were released in October.
Reign Over Me is rated R for language and some sexual references, with a running time of 124 minutes.