Yesterday I saw a very powerful film, called "Reign Over Me," which stars Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. It's the story of two old college friends who re-connect after many years. Sandler portrays Charlie Fineman, a former dentist who suffers the most unimaginable of tragedies: his wife and three daughters were on one of the planes that struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Cheadle plays Alan Johnson, a dentist who's married with two kids but finds his life and job becoming rather routine and mundane. He spots his old pal Charlie on the street one day. He knows the tragic loss he suffered and finds that he's a shell of the person he once was, and attempts to try and get his old friend his life back.
I had heard about "Reign Over Me" over a year ago from the WTC support group I belong to, and I was fascinated to see what kind of film it was. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw the previews on TV, and thought I would check this film out as soon as it was released.
Yesterday was it's release date, and my friend Deborah and I checked out the movie in a theater in downtown Brooklyn. The film was written and directed by Mike Binder, who does a great job handling a very sensitive subject. Charlie cannot come to grips with his family being gone, and disconnects from just about everyone who has a connection to them. There are no shots of 9/11, or Ground Zero, and the events of the day are recalled just once. (But in the theater I was in, I found the audience laughing at rather inappropriate times, and it made me wish I was seeing the film in a less crowded theater.)
And I never thought I would ever mention "Adam Sandler" and "Oscar" in the same sentence. But he gives a powerful performance as Charlie, and definitely has the talent to handle dramatic roles. I was of the verge of tears in a couple of heartbreaking scenes he was in. I can see him possibly being nominated for Best Actor for his performance. And Don Cheadle continues to be one of the best actors in the business, and he gives a great performance as his Charlie's old pal, trying his best to get Charlie out of his secluded world of '80s rock music, which Charlie listens to incessantly. But Charlie winds up helping Alan in the end as well.
The supporting cast is good as well. I liked Liv Tyler as the psychiatrist, but thought she may have been just a tad too young for the role (my friend Deborah, who's a therapist, agreed). Donald Sutherland and Robert Klein were also good in small roles as the judge and Charlie's father-in-law, respectively.
"Reign Over Me" is just a tremendous film. 9/11 is more of a background to the story, but Mike Binder has made a sensitive and thoughtful film without being exploitative in the least. It is touching, funny at times, as well as depressing, but well worth going to see. As the years go on, the subject of the terror attacks of 9/11 will gradually be tackled more and more on film, and I hope it will be handled as sensitively as Mike Binder has done with "Reign Over Me."