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Reign Over Me (2007)

DVD Cover (Sony Home Entertainment)
Genres:
Drama, Psychological Drama
Director:
Mike Binder Mike Binder
Starring:
Adam Sandler Adam Sandler
Don Cheadle Don Cheadle
Jada Pinkett Smith Jada Pinkett Smith
Liv Tyler Liv Tyler
Saffron Burrows Saffron Burrows

7.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: March 23, 2007
Some comedians can do drama. Some comedians can do drama well. Just take a look at Bill Murray, formerly known for both Saturday Night Live and a string of successful comedies in the 1980's and 1990's. Then came a string of non-comedic roles that helped re-vitalize his career and turned him into one of the most sought after actors in Hollywood. He started out with a quirky little film called "Rushmore" and went "The Royal Tenenbaums", "Lost In Translation" and his most recent dramatic attempt, "Broken Flowers". Steve Martin has also recently found success in the dramatic fields with "Shopgirl". Don't forget that funnyman Jim Carrey has been trying his hand at drama for years now with "The Truman Show", "Man On the Moon" and "The Number 23". All comedians, one day or another, want to shake off their rib-tickling roots and try for something that's a little out of their range. Adam Sandler is no different. In "Punch Drunk Love", Sandler was able to show off a mild range of dramatic skill that didn't mean much to a lot of people. The film, as a whole, was too unaccessible to appeal to his core audience and it alienated everyone else. "Reign Over Me" is smarter than that. Writer and director Mike Binder seems to have crafted this character around Sandler, just as P.T. Anderson did with "Punch Drunk Love" - however, Binder appreciates what Sandler can do and he creates a character that is not unlike what we have seen Sandler do before on Saturday Night Live and his comedies. However, now he does it with raw emotion.

One day, while escaping from the routine of family life, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) - a respected dentist and loyal father and husband - bumps into Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler), his old college roommate who used to rock out to Springsteen's "The River" and was always a source of great fun and amusement. When Charlie doesn't even recognize Alan, we first know that something is up. What we soon learn is that Charlie's wife and three daughters were on one of the planes that flew into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, and that Charlie has since become a recluse, pretending not to remember those events or anyone who might have known his wife and children. Alan tries to hedge around the topics as much as he can, seeing that Charlie really needs help if he's ever to sustain a somewhat normal life. Charlie is a broken man who spends his days eating Chinese food and playing video games, getting furiously aggressive anytime anyone mentions anything about his family, or his life before the accident. As Alan tries to help Charlie face his demons and come out of his shell, Charlie helps Alan become more assertive and take what he wants from life. In the end, "Reign Over Me" is just a movie about friendship - a movie about his friendship can help just about anyone overcome the most horrific things. It's also a film about the affect that one man has on a large group of people - from his former roommate to his former parents-in-law.

When it comes to mixing comedy and drama, Mike Binder knows what he is doing. He is one of the great writer/director combos working today, as was evident with his last film, "The Upside of Anger", which received both critical acclaim and financial success. Binder has a way with words and he has an even better way with filming those words to make them sound authentic. A lot of this film seemed somewhat improvisational, especially some of Cheadle's awkward interactions with his wife (Jada Pinkett Smith), and the scene with the judge (Donald Sutherland). In terms of drama, this film could be considered a tearjerker. There is a lot of raw emotion that stems from a very dark and vicious place. These scenes are handled very well. The best scene in the film comes in the courtroom when a determined prosecutor (B.J. Novak) begins flashing pictures of Charlie's family in front of the court - sending him into hysterics - eventually tossing the pictures down on the table right in front of Charlie's face. It's little things like that which evoke the emotion that we feel when we catch those tears rolling down our faces. And who'd of ever thought we'd be crying in a film starring the same guy who used a plastic bag as a Halloween costume? The music in the film is also a big plus for me, carefully guiding the story along and giving each character a soundtrack. We get everything from Bruce Springsteen to Jackson Browne to Pearl Jam at the very end.

As with any Mike Binder film, the performances are typically stellar. Adam Sandler proves, once and for all, that he has the dramatic chops for this kind of acting. I don't think he's going to have much success in the dramatic genre, but this role was tailor-made for him. He hits all the right notes as Charlie and really evokes sympathy from the audience, even when he is being a complete and utter ass to his best friend. Sandler looks very ragged and very much unlike himself, and that was a smart move in that it helps us separate the actor from the actor's image. How could we take him seriously if all we saw was "Billy Madison"? Don Cheadle, one of the best actors working in the business today, also turns in a strong performance as Sandler's roommate and friend, who is frustrated with his home life and his work life and just needs an outlet to escape. Cheadle has some genuinely wonderful scenes in the film between he and his wife and he and Charlie. In terms of support, it was nice to see Liv Tyler stretch herself a little more; Saffron Burrows was stunning in her oddly placed, but enjoyable role; and Donald Sutherland should teach a class on How to Take a Five Minute Scene and Turn It Into Something Totally Memorable. He pops up at the very end, takes control of the two scenes, and then leaves without so much as a 'goodbye'. Now, that is how you act. Robert Klein and Melinda Dillon also offer nice support in somewhat weepy roles.

For someone who normally despises Adam Sandler, I cannot tell you how happy I was that this film turned out as good as it did. Although I dislike his comedies, I have never disliked him as a person or performer. I've always thought he had something great in him, and "Reign Over Me" might have been what I was thinking about. Mike Binder is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors and this film only continues to showcase how gifted a storyteller he actually is. "Reign Over Me" hits you hard at points and wears its heart on its sleeve, but it's a drama that genuinely touched me and the other audience members around me. It made me appreciate the friends I have in my life, and it made me thankful that I've never had to experience the kind of overwhelming and life-altering grief that this man had to experience. Also, don't be tricked into thinking this film is one of those weepy 'Remember 9/11' films. It's not. They rarely even mention the event by name. Not that there's anything wrong with remembering, but when a film focuses too heavily on that, the sadness that accompanies it can sometimes overshadow the film itself. Kudos to Mike Binder. Kudos to Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. And, kudos to Donald Sutherland for bringing sexy back.

9/10.
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