As Charlie Fineman, a New York dentist who lost his wife and three young daughters in one of the September 11 plane crashes, Adam Sandler sports a mass of bedraggled locks and walks with his head hung low, the sounds of the city drowned out by the Who or Bruce Springsteen blaring from his ever-present iPod. The central figure in writer-director Mike Binder's Reign Over Me, Charlie is the sort of troubled but good-hearted character Hollywood movies yearn to heal or redeem. And Reign Over Me offers up its potential savior in the form of Charlie's former dental-school roommate, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), who bumps into Charlie by accident one night and slowly starts to reconnect with his traumatized friend. But particularly in its harrowing third act, the movie proves surprisingly honest and unsentimental about survivor guilt, mental illness, and the inability of time (or therapy or Hollywood movies) to heal certain wounds. As in his 2005 picture The Upside of Anger, Binder loads down his screenplay with too many clunky metaphors and superfluous subplots, but Reign Over Me remains buoyant because the feelings in it are immutable and because Sandler has never before held the screen with greater intensity.
Mike BinderAdam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler, Saffron Burrows, Cicely Tyson, Robert Klein, Melinda Dillon, Camille LaChe Smith, Mike BinderMike BinderJack Binder, Michael RotenbergSony Pictures