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Reign Over Me (Full Screen) (2007)

A movie directed by Mike Binder

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Reign Over Me - 2007

  • Mar 24, 2011
  • by
Pros: Sandler & Cheadle, good script

Cons: none for me

The Bottom Line:
"On the dry and dusty road,
The nights we spend apart alone.

I can't sleep and I lay and I think,
The night is hot and black as ink."
~The Who

Death does not come with a scorecard.  There is no book or checklist where you can tick things off, then move on to the next item.  It is highly impersonal and leaves chaos in its wake.  You may think you are prepared for its arrival but you are still smacked in the gut when it happens.   Those left behind fall into so many categories there is no way to find a solution.  

I have a good friend that had a daughter born with a profound illness.  From the day of her birth they prepared for her death.  It was such a devastating, incurable, illness the professionals suggested the baby be put in a "home" where she could be cared for until her inevitable death.  Life expectancy, for the illness, is two years.  She passed, last year, at age 29.  She lived her entire life at home with her parents.  She spoke several languages and was wickedly intelligent but obviously marred in appearance to those not aware. 

Everyday of that child's life was spent in a loving and caring environment.  She held a job when she was old enough until she was no longer able to be as mobile.  She traveled all over the world, sat for dinner with a 7-course serving.  She was never treated as retarded or different by her parents or family and friends.  And, yet, they started each day believing it could be her last.   When it finally came they were as devastated as anyone that had lost a loved one suddenly. 

While I normally don't prologue a review with so much chatter, I thought it was important to understand the depths of despair associated with death.  It is the inevitable course of living, I do not fear it.  What truly frightens me is the aftermath for those left behind, empty.   We should, instead, celebrate the glorious times we shared even if they weren't all glorious.  We should spread our arms wide and embrace the quality of the relationship we had, warts and all. 

Some are able to quickly move on, adjust to their new status of living without ... whoever ... some are damaged.  A sack of skin transporting veins, bones, organs.  Emotionless?  Not entirely, for theirs has a visceral quality that feeds on itself.   They are the walking wounded.

What writer/director Mike Binder attempted in the film Reign Over Me is to showcase that quality.  That feeling of emptiness, oneness. 

The story:
Alan Johnson is a successful dentist with a not so successful marriage.  It doesn't lack love, it lacks communication.   We don't know what caused this, it is never divulged.  It had to have a root somewhere back in Johnson's childhood, I would think.  Some point where those in his core circle stopped sharing themselves with each other.

Charlie Fineman used to be a dentist, apparently successful.  He had a marriage with three daughters.  Even a poodle to round out the family.  From what you derive later in the story, Charlie felt a bit of the same separation in his family.   In fact, his final conversation with his wife centered around a kitchen remodeling project that he had no interest in and he was even a bit short in his response to her.

It was 9/11 and Charlie's perfect family, including the dog, were on a plane flying from Boston.

Other than this tentative link of a secluded marriage situation, Alan and Charlie have something else in common.   They were roommates at college.   When Alan sees Charlie on the street, he tries to rekindle the relationship from college days.  It isn't an easy job, Charlie has stopped living.  He has retreated to a place where he feels safe, refusing to discuss the deaths of his family.   Alan, aware they had passed, doesn't immediately discuss this with him but, rather, attempts to pull Charlie out of the quicksand of oblivion, putting even more strain on his already stretched relationship with his own family.

The actors: 
Truth be told, I've never cared for Adam Sandler.  Although I do like comedies, I don't like the "slapstick" kind, which I always associated with Sandler.   With that in mind, I have probably missed some of his better work in the dramatic vein.   What he brought to the part of Charlie Fineman drew a new respect for his abilities.   He had the perfect meld of insanity and compassion, topped with a sly humor.  He seemed to treat the role with a delicacy he recognized from the events and the script and I thank him for that.

Don Cheadle has been a favorite of mine since I saw him in a role on the TV series ER.   He played a quiet, dignified, man with a great love of his work as a doctor.  His only problem was he had Parkinson's Disease which would hamper that career greatly.   He brought that same dignity to his role of Alan Johnson.  He also delivered a good deal of humor to the role.  The two were perfectly paired in the starring roles of this film.

Also rans include:
Jada Pinkett Smith as Alan's wife.  She brought a cool groundness to the relationship.  Never really pressuring but always visible in his life.   She sees their separation, doesn't know how to overcome it, begrudgingly accepts Charlie.

Liv Tyler as the psychiatrist who seemed to blend into the background.   This was deliberate as they wanted to portray her as someone not as comfortable in her success as she would want all to believe, making her more vulnerable to those seeking her services.

Saffron Burrows stepped in as a client with a bit of a crush on Dr. Johnson, resulting from a failed marriage.  She is also a client of Liv Tyler, where she crosses paths with both Johnson and Charlie.  Some have said her role was unnecessary but I found that quite the opposite.  She, like Charlie, is a broken soul, seeking refuge.  Her sexual attempts at Johnson help us cement his relationship in his marriage.

Donald Sutherland stepped in for a small but deciding part at the judge, determining the outcome of Charlie's future.  Ever debonair, he brings a different view of Charlie's illness.  He is joined by Robert Klein and Melinda Dillon, Charlie's in-laws, also deciding on his future and desperate to make a connection with the past and their role in it with him.

DVD extras:
Jam Session, Adam & Don, had some humorous moments with some good riffs; Behind the Reign with commentary by Binder detailing information about scenes and feelings; A Still Reign showing a photo montage with the soundtrack of Love, Reign O'er Me; previews.

Overall impression:
I completely like and understood this film.  Sandler's portrayal of a broken soul was well done, offset with Cheadle's attempts to rescue him.  I really enjoyed the use of the motorized scooter that Charlie and Alan tooled around town on, putting you more inside the picture than observing it.  It was a film that focused on feelings, and the lack thereof, on a personal level.



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March 24, 2011
I really enjoyed this film, far more than I had thought I was going to (I had my doubts about Sandler as well but, loved Cheadle). Great review, thanks for sharing :)
March 25, 2011
yes, I'm really glad I took the chance and watched it. thanks
March 24, 2011
excellent review! Your thoughts mirror mine on this. I agree on Cheadle, he's a fine actor.
March 25, 2011
a great actor indeed. thanks
More Reign Over Me reviews
review by . April 02, 2009
The other night, I got hooked into the movie "Reign Over Me" starring Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler.  When it first came out, I was very interested in seeing it, but then it was gone from the theaters before I had the chance.    The movie was worth the wait, but I wish I'd seen it sooner.    Basically Adam Sandler plays a character who was the college roommate for 2 years of Don Cheadle's character.  Sandler's character pretty much experienced …
review by . October 12, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
While dramas reenacting the devastation of 911 abound, only a few select films appear to be dealing with the personal, long-term effects of that day of doom. REIGN OVER ME, with a brilliant script by Mike Bender (who also directs and acts in the film), reaches into the arena of emotional states that continue to filter through the detritus of that event, states that have altered many minds permanently and states that have provided pathways for growing into a more profound appreciation for life and …
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About this movie


One of the first films to examine the aftermath of post- 9/11 New York City,Reign Over Meshows how much even indirect contact with those who lost loved ones in the tragedy can greatly affect. Like rings of debris spiraling out from an explosion, Charlie Fineman's (Adam Sandler) loss also devastates his in-laws, who he refuses to speak to, and ex-college roommate, Alan Johnson.Reign Over Mestars Johnson, a successful dentist with a gorgeous wife, Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith) and two kids, who finds Charlie reverted back into a teenage wasteland, unable to face his unbearable sadness. Sandler as Charlie looks like Bob Dylan and acts like Dustin Hoffman in his great dramatic performance. Listening to The Who and The Boss through headphones, playing video games, and continually remodeling his kitchen, Fineman's escapism disturbs Johnson, who, in turn, feels squelched by his stiflingly normal lifestyle. As the two reacquaint, Johnson is the only person who can help save Fineman from self-obliteration. The story analyzes Post Traumatic Stress with some accuracy, though excess sentimentality undermines emotional scenes. Survivor's guilt, assessing mental illness, and absolute incapacitation due to grief are all topics covered within the bounds of the enduring friendship forged between these two men. Ultimately,Reign Over Me'smessage is one of compassion, as a reminder to treat victims of loss with patience and care. But interestingly, it also pays heed to smaller ...
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Director: Mike Binder
DVD Release Date: October 9, 2007
Runtime: 124 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
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