Reign Over Me (Binder, 2007)

Mike Binder’s The Upside of Anger was the true surprise of 2005, a brilliantly witty and honest film sporting layered characters dealing with a life crisis. Reign Over Me, Binder’s new film about a 9/11 widower played by Adam Sandler living in denial of his family’s death, lacks the resonance of his previous film even though it attempts to deal with more profound material. Dr. Johnson (Don Cheadle), a high end dentist in New York City, spots his old college roommate Charlie Fineman (Sandler) on the street, a man suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome and has all but forgotten his murdered family. As Johnson begins to understand the gravity of Charlie’s condition, the film goes through the suspected process of redemption and salvation. Lawyers, shrinks, and judges (Donald Sutherland in a great cameo) weigh in on Charlie’s cracking demeanor, leaving the film’s crisis a mosaic of institutional decisions. Binder’s writing often saves otherwise dull scenes between tertiary characters, though when Sandler’s on-screen the film becomes magnetic, the cast often overwhelmed by his conflicted persona. One particular scene stands tall – Charlie tearfully trying to recreate images and memories of his family, a devastating and intimate description of the life he lost so tragically. That’s really the only moment where Reign Over Me won me over, one genuine confession in a sea of well meaning mediocrity.

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