Reign Over Me (2007)
Mike Binder's Reign Over Me discusses big issues with a big head. It is a desperately serious film, with a desperately serious performance from Adam Sandler in the lead. Still, there is a lot of quality in here, and Binder makes us ponder and feel, even if he makes us do it a little bit too consciously. Sandler, plays a man who lost his wife and children in 9/11. He is tormented and withdrawn, seemingly in complete denial, and passes his days playing videogames and eating Chinese food. When he meets his former college roommate Alan (Cheadle), he is slowly forced to participate in and contemplate life outside the confines of his self-restricted life.
9/11 has had a variety of effects. For Hollywood it has become an inspiration - or a pretext. In Reign Over Me it feels more like the latter, even if it is a completely valid one. The Charlie character has potency, but is a bit hampered by Sandler's performance. His work is wholehearted and forceful, but somewhat ill-focused. Sandler's rendition of a mourning, mentally ill man has a little bit too much in common with Dustin Hoffman's Raymond Babbit. It makes you wonder what the deal was with Charlie prior to the incident. Don Cheadle gives solid support, feeling completely like a supporting character. His domestic situation will be very recognizable. There is a fantastic scene quite early on in Alan's doorway in which Charlie invites Alan to go out for a beer with the wife standing by. This scene sums up the couple's situation without a word.
The best assets in Reign Over Me are the humour and upbeat tone in some crucial scenes, especially those Charlie and Alan share together, as well as Binder's effective use of his carefully selected soundtrack. Music has a pivotal position in Charlie's reality, and I believe more than a few of us can relate to that. Binder shows he has talent, and his film is full of heart and insight, but unfortunately, it is also a self-conscious and constructed film. The courtroom sequence towards the end doesn't feel authentic for a normal European, and Donald Sutherland realizes exactly that. He is the voice of reason in a party of people who should just have been told to get over themselves.