*** out of ****
Adam Sandler playing a straight-forward character seems like a preposterous idea, though he proves us wrong and will certainly be in the running for awards for Reign Over Me (after The Who song, Reign O’er Me, the original title of the film). Reign is a soul searching tear-jerker about what’s important in Life.
Reign starts off with Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), seemingly in a perfect family, a well-off dentist, owning a cosmetic dental firm, married with two daughters. Alan talks to a psychiatrist in his office building, Angela Oakhurst (Liv Tyler) on his uneasy-marriage to Janeane (Jada Pinket Smith), attributed to having no “guy” friends. While driving home Alan runs into his old dental college roommate Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) who looks like a Bob Dylan impersonator. To Alan’s surprise Charlie doesn’t remember him. Alan hasn’t seen Charlie since he lost his wife and three young daughters in the plane crash during 9/11, causing Charlie to shutdown. Charlie gives up on a responsible life, acts like a child ready to snap at any remembrances of the tragedy wearing headphones to tune out the world.
Alan tries to help the mentally unstable Charlie get over the grief that he doesn’t want to think about. While helping Charlie, Alan’s own unhappiness is addressed; together their friendship helps them forge ahead for the better.
A big subplot in Reign is of Alan’s patient, Donna Remar (Saffron Burrows), being sexually attracted to him in an indiscreet way. We later learn that this was just a way of acting out, in a similar grief of a broken heart like Charlie’s.
By no means is this movie like United 93 or World Trade Center; Reign Over Me only uses 9/11 to show how others continue to be effected by their losses.
Don Cheadle proves again his terrific acting ability like those in Crash and Hotel Rwanda. Liv Tyler and Jada Pinket Smith in supporting roles are also a great addition to the cast. Comedian Adam Sandler, turns the table and becomes a dramatic star of the film with an amazing portrayal of Charlie Fineman. He acts flawlessly and brings depth to the character.
Reign has a terrific 70s rock soundtrack with Bruce Springsteen, The Who and The Pretenders along with newer bands, The Fray and The Killers.
Directed and written by Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger); Binder showcases his talent and has a small acting role as Charlie’s Financial adviser, Bryan Sugarman. His directing style caused some unanswered transitions.
Reign is a retrospect on life, mental health, and friendships, ending with an opening for happiness, which leaves a teary eye for everyone.