WARNING: Possible spoilers
Charlie Fineman (Sandler) is a victim of 9/11, having lost his three daughters, his wife, and even his dog. Previously a successful human being, he degenerates over the years into a paranoid husk, almost exclusively secluded in his apartment where he constantly remodels his kitchen, practices drums, and plays Playstation 2 (Shadow of the Colossus is featured very heavily). When he is seen amongst the "real world," he is never glimpsed without his iPod and large headphones, partially shielding him from the imagined terrors of reality.
However, his old personality still lingers to a degree, and for the first time in a long time he makes a friend other than his landlady: Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), old college roommate, dentist, all in all a normal fellow. Johnson forces his way into Charlie's life, slowly discovering the depth of his madness and weathering his eventual psychotic episodes. He is drawn to Charlie as a friend, as an outlet of spontaneity in his own life, and yet compelled as a doctor to assist. Assist he does, although it is not a miracle cure by any stretch of the imagination. I'll leave the details of that out, but needless to say when he does finally open up, despite the horrible details and incredible emotional pain he's in, I was thrilled that he was finally confiding in someone. Moments such as that are a big reason I love movies.
Music is integral to the flick, Charlie obsessing over it, with a meticulous vinyl collection, the aforementioned iPod and his musicianship as a drummer. It's music I know little about, with artists like Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger all mentioned quite a bit in the film, and of course the title taken from The Who. So as far as that is concerned, I'm at a loss from a critic's standpoint, except to say that the effort of interconnecting songs and story can feel clumsy at times. It's not a major detractor for me, however, and overall the acting is well done in the movie. Much like a lot of other films, it is occasionally great, and usually solid.
Sandler is obviously the central focus, in a role curiously created for Tom Cruise, and does well for the guy everybody knows for his schlock'n'jock humor. It's not a Daniel Day-Lewis type transformation of being (of course), but he does portray the lows appropriately, as well as some of the more playful escapades of his character (dragging his friend to an all-night Mel Brooks marathon, for example) with restraint compared to what might jump to mind when you think about Adam Sandler.
It might be tempting to some to dismiss a drama starring Adam Sandler in the lead role as a mentally deficient person, but buoyed by my adoration of Sandler's performance in Punch-Drunk Love, I watched Reign Over Me. I wasn't disappointed. A lot of the intrigue of this movie goes beyond simple description, but yet it is not exceptionally deep. I was interested throughout, which is essentially all I ask of a movie.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10]