Reign Over Me, Reviewed
My wife and I recently saw the movie Reign Over Me, starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. It's a drama about two college roommates who reconnect years later, during a chance meeting. Both men have become fathers, although Sandler's character lost his wife and daughters in a plane on 9/11, and he never got over it. He's completely broken.
I'll tell you right up front that I liked this movie. If you want to know why, read on.
When you get into the movie, you see that there is almost no attempt to wrap this story up in a soft cuddly cuteness. You can guess right from the start that the ending probably isn't going to be one of those happy sitcom conclusions, where everything is perfect. There is a bit of the old Sandler humor, to be sure. But the reality of the film is very blunt – there's a guy who got badly damaged by his life experience, and he shut down. And there's this other guy who has a very nice life that is somehow lonely. And the two of them collide in a messy, imperfect friendship.
Some things about this movie resonated with me. For starters, this is a movie about real men, in my opinion. They are not simple little caricatures. And of course, there are women in this film too, and they are very pretty (Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows). But when it comes down to it, this is about two men trying to find a turning point to their failures. And moreso, trying to do it in a way that is true to their own goals, needs, and timetables. In my own life, I have often felt tremendous pressure to deal with things in ways that other people might prefer. To see these men being pulled in different directions and yet trying to handle the challenges they face in their own ways... well, it was almost inspirational to me.
One of the things I enjoyed about the movie was the uneasy revelations about Sandler's character. At first, I assumed he was just crazy, and should be in a mental ward somewhere. Later, I wondered if maybe he was fine but needed room to cope with his devastation. I would have found either of those possibilities easy to settle into. Instead, we are given an uncomfortable middle ground – he is apparently neither crazy nor fine, but rather just very hurt and consequently, no longer exactly "safe" around other people. You get the impression that anyone who befriends him will have to make peace with the notion that he's going to hit something or someone at some point.
The last thing I would like to mention is the fine scene between Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler, when Sandler's psychologist (Liv Tyler) finally manages to convince him to open up. Sandler painfully recounts the loss of his family, in his own terms. It's not told from the perspective of the plane crash, but from the perspective of a father in an empty house. It is from the perspective of a man who knows that he needs women to color his life, and is now left with the dull hues of isolation. Don Cheadle is very effective here. He's quiet, not entirely comfortable, but willing to listen and take what he hears with a minimum of words.
I would note that my friends found the movie to be merely "okay." Some said it was slow in parts, and some found the big scene with Sandler & Cheadle to be more annoying than anything. I was able to overlook that and walk away feeling like I had seen a truly excellent film. Take that for what it's worth.