Adam Sandler’s Softer Side

“Reign Over Me” shows the compellingly tragic story of one man forced into a life of solitude after the loss of everything he had – a wife and kids he loved, and the only life he ever knew.

Adam Sandler leads the cast as Charlie Fineman, a man who lost his family on September 11, 2001. Charlie wastes the days away riding a scooter around New York, repressing any thought or reminder of what his life once was. Sandler’s performance is remarkably powerful, capturing the grief and emptiness of this man ripped from the life he had. Sandler has yet again taken a serious role, adding to his resum√© alongside stellar performances in “Punch Drunk Love” and “Spanglish.”

Then a former college roommate, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), whom Charlie no longer remembers, or chooses not to, enters his life. Alan attempts to revive his long-lost friend from the world of post-traumatic stress that encompasses him. However, he himself is trapped in his own world of boredom and rituality, including his safe marriage to wife Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith). Cheadle’s performance is just as good, though the problems he seems to face are petty. Like his previous roles, Cheadle is a vibrant and compelling actor. He does not need to prove himself in the film and can instead tackle the role of the straight-edged character.

The connection between the two never comes across as phony, but instead believable and engaging. Between the characters’ jam sessions and video games, there is even witty humor from both sides, lightening up the dark and edgy circumstances of the film. Just as quick as the punch lines hit, however, we are reminded of the true nature and circumstance of the film. At any mention of the “monsters” that attacked America, Charlie succumbs to rage and despair, shutting down all over again.

This may be why he continuously plays a video game called “Shadow of the Colossus,” involving a giant being defeated over and over again. Liv Tyler plays a psychiatrist, who, after being sought out by Alan, tries to help Charlie open up, along with others, including his in-laws (Robert Klein and Melinda Dillon).

The film does not take the audience to places expected, but it helps prove that some losses are just too great to be recovered.
The simple phrase “plane crash” brings chills to Americans. The question of how to do a film concerning 9/11 appropriately has been debated for six years. Director Mike Binder’s film “Reign Over Me” has finally gotten it right. Should too much be said, or as little as possible? Binder took what truly matters most – the emotions – and added a powerful cast. Visual reminders of the tragic day were not needed, and he, unlike many others, knew it had to be done tastefully.

Binder brings the audience to tears and laughter with what will definitely be one of the best films of the year. The movie has even created talk for Sandler as an early contender for awards season.

“Reign Over Me” not only has a powerful cast, but a moving story.

Nothing can bring back the lives either of these men had or even hoped for, but in the end, they wind up saving each others’.