Making the Grades
Soft-spoken Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) spends his days at his dental practice and his evenings holding on to a marriage that has lapsed into boredom. His wife Janeane (Jada Pinkett Smith) is excited about enrolling in photography workshops and finishing jigsaw puzzles, but Alan is yearning for something more fulfilling. That's about the time he steps back into Charlie Fineman's (Adam Sandler) life.
It is amazing that Alan even recognizes his former dental school roommate when he passes him on the street. The man's shaggy, unkempt hair and permanently attached headphones represent a complete change of image from his college days. After a brief conversation, it also becomes apparent Charlie's personality has shifted into darkness and withdrawal. All these changes are the result of his inability to reconcile the loss of his wife and three daughters in a plane crash on September 11, 2001.
Renewing their relationship triggers an insatiable curiosity for Alan. Even though Charlie sometimes treats him like a best buddy and at other times like his worst enemy (expressed in fits of rage as well as physical and verbal abuse), the determined dentist keeps coming back to "Charlie World" with the hope of encouraging his mentally ill friend to open up and release his inner anguish.
However "hanging" with his old pal and playing video games or watching movies night after night, is adding stress to Alan's marriage. His problems at home are further aggravated after a troubled female patient (Saffron Burrows) blatantly offers him sexual favors. Fortunately a professional counselor, Angela Oakhurst (Liv Tyler), who rents office space in the same professional building, begins providing much needed help and assistance. But the more Charlie is encouraged to bring himself to face his loss, the more his sorrow and anger intensify, bringing serious questions about his sanity into play.
Warm and fuzzy or hard and edgy? This movie falls on both sides of the spectrum, making it a dicey choice for parents considering it for older teens. While the promotional trailers for the film do their best to present a soft hearted story about helping a friend in need of a hand up, the sunburst is rained over by harsh discussions about sexual topics (with associated anatomical and rude terms) along with repeated sexual expletives and other profanities.
And that is a shame because Reign Over Me offers splendid performances and an intricate script portraying a range of human emotion. With a little less unnecessary content, the movie could have excelled as a mature drama about caring for others and overcoming grief.