Review: Reign Over Me
There’s only one coke in the image above? Poor form, Sandler, you managed to fit five product placement’s for Coke in the cinema of Jack and Jill.
I despise Adam Sandler, he is the ultimate atrocity of cinema. Watching his ‘comedy’ is much like shoving your hand into a blender, except it doesn’t go numb, and it usually goes for about 95 minutes. In fact, when someone once took me to see “You Don’t Mess with The Zohan”, I walked out of the theaters and did just that! So one night while I attended my nightly ritual of self-worship and expressed my distaste of others, when announcing my utter hatred of Adam Sandler, I was recommended to see his ‘serious’ film. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. Adam Sandler’s serious film…It took me days to comprehend even the thought of it!
Mike Binder’s Reign Over Me tells the story of Charlie Fineman (Sandler), a man who lost his family on 9/11 (as the film will constantly remind you to ensure the Academy hears) and is suffering from some rather serious post-traumatic stress, mostly from the perspective of Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), a dentist who doesn’t quite enjoy life but feels the need to help an old college friend. The film isn’t bad, it just isn’t particularly good, partly because it’s wears a sign saying “Look at all this meaning! Isn’t it fantastic, I’m such a deep film!”, but mostly because it doesn’t know what it wants to do with the narrative.
There are some moments which are honestly quite touching (if a bit cliche), and the gradual opening up of Fineman’s personal life feels almost real, as well as the monologue to the parents in the climax, but the script isn’t strong enough to pull off all it’s attempts, leaving a few scenes feeling completely out of place, and others scene’s crawling along trying to keep up with the odd high points of the film. See, Sandler pulls off being confused and a shell of his previous self quite well when he’s silent and reclusive, but the moment he raises his voice or moves his body (which he’ll do regularly) he falls towards ‘comedic’ (and I use that term so incredibly loosely), more or less he falls into being the Sandler we all know, which is unfortunate really as it undermines a quite confusingly good, even endearing at times, performance.
Credit where it’s due, however, to Don Cheadle. See, Adam Sandler surprises us by being an adequate actor for the first time in his career (which, at present, he’s acted in 43 films), but Cheadle outperforms him in every way as Alan Johnson, who performs the entire rainbow of emotion in a believable manner, and he overshadows Sandler entirely until the third act. While Johnson tries to help Fineman regain a standard life endlessly he’s battling his own problems with both family and business, and some of the strongest points of the film are Cheadle arguing with his wife (played by Jada Pinkett Smith) who doesn’t quite understand his motivation or behaviour (and to be honest, who blames her, Fineman isn’t exactly always a swell person). However, A special mention is also owed to Saffron Burrows for blandly delivering 90% of the lines she possess, which doesn’t help at all since the film has a very slow first hour, which isn’t necessarily bad, but she surely tries to make it so.
Probably the best parts of the film is when it skirts around all the issues it contains. The film is personal, and you’re never made to understand Fineman, it’s about the friendship of the characters. We’re treated to seeing the characters sit around playing games and just being friend, and that’s why this film works. As a gamer, I feel It’s worth noting that the film maturely uses video gaming as part of the story; the game Shadows of the Colossus is being played religiously by Fineman, as he watches the Colossus crumble like the towers of 9/11, working to save the life of a princess resembling his wife,
having a child with horns on their head much like we all strive for, the playing of this game is one of the few insights into Fineman’s mind we get, which is much stronger than the scenes someone explains everything. It feels Binder was uncomfortable leaving the actors to show what they wanted to say, so he made sure every second scene would verbally explain what we just found out moments ago. I love dialogue, I love scenes of people sitting down and talking for ten minutes about why they don’t tip, but I don’t like being treated like an idiot.
I tried really hard to love this film, but there are many core issues, and sure, Reign Over Me has highlights, spikes where a good idea shines through and you get excited for a moment, but then it regresses back and repeats itself for another 20 minutes, it meanders along entertainingly, had the film been cut shorter by around 30 minutes and Sandler restrain himself from being Happy Gilmore whenever he got angry, it would have achieved a higher score, unfortunately instead we have a strong film with too many weak scenes and mis-steps. The film is worth seeing once, by all means, but I’m glad I only rented it as I don’t feel I’ll be returning to it any time soon. The best thing this film leaves us with is a bad-ass cover of “Reign O’er Me” by Pearl Jam (originally by The Who) and about 80 minutes of what should have been. 6.5/10.