REIGN OVER ME
Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) were college roommates, when training in dentistry. When they meet by chance in Manhattan, it is five years since Charlie lost his family in 911, and he has retreated from life. Alan is shocked by the changes in his formerly gregarious friend, and wants to help him. Although Alan runs a successful cosmetic dental practice and is happily married to Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith) with two lovely daughters, he too has personal issues with which he needs to deal. The rekindled relationship between Charlie and Alan becomes a lifeline for them at a pivotal moment in their lives.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's the problems in people's lives that are the focus of Reign Over Me, a poignant drama that exposes the wafer-thin nature of lives and emotions. With its themes of love and loss, the emotional intensity is similar to that of his 2005 film The Upside of Anger, but this time, writer director Mike Bender's storyline is less convincing. It's the story of two men in crisis, and how they inadvertently help one another. Bring a tissue; the emotional territory is profound, as are the two central performances with Adam Sander as a man lost in grief and denial and Don Cheadle, a man surrounded by success but who has lost a sense of himself.
We first meet Cheadle's cosmetic dentist Alan Johnson, whose life is less perfect than it seems. On the surface life couldn't be any better; he is financially secure with a partnership in a successful cosmetic dental practice, and he loves his wife Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith) and two daughters. But he feels like a puppet on a string, irrespective of how glossy are the strings. When he runs into Sandler's Charlie, riding his electric scooter on the streets of New York, he is keen to renew contact. It has been years since they saw each other, and the weighty tragedy of 911, when Charlie lost his family is still fresh in Alan's mind. But Charlie is a different person and hardly remembers Alan. Charlie's life is about exclusions. He indulges in loud music, plays the drums, paints over walls, plays video games and is on a never-ending quest to remodell his kitchen. Alan is curiously drawn to Charlie and starts to escape from his own life, learning the joys of slaying computer-generated dragons and getting 'a dose of Mel Brooks' at all-night movie marathons.
Two women are the centre of subplots that are somewhat forced. The first is Liv Tyler's sweet natured psychiatrist who works in the same building as Alan; the second is Saffron Burrows' sexual predator who makes blatant advances behind closed dental doors. Both have a purpose, however, which becomes clear when Charlie finally comes to realise he needs to talk about the things about which he cannot even bear to think. From the vague to the specific, we learn about Charlie's family - his wife, three daughters and poodle called Spider - who become real to us. Although there are moments that feel manipulative, there is nothing insincere about the emotions portrayed, as Charlie voices his regrets and shares his broken heart. His is a tragic story and a real reminder of the long term consequences of 911. The title song (Love Reign O'er Me from The Who's rock opera Quadrophenia) is Charlie's respite, when he needs to escape from life's pain. Bender's role as Charlie's attorney Sugarman is the film's weakest and Bender should have resisted.
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REIGN OVER ME (M)
CAST: Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows, Cicely Tyson, Robert Klein, Melinda Dillon, Camille LaChe Smith, Mike Binder, Ted Raimi
PRODUCER: Jack Binder, Michael Rotenberg
DIRECTOR: Mike Binder
SCRIPT: Mike Binder
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russ T. Alsobrook
EDITOR: Steve Edwards, Jeremy Roush
MUSIC: Rolfe Kent
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christian Wintter
RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 22, 2007