Even deep into this drama, it's difficult for viewers to forget that this is as much a story about privilege as it is about addiction. Based on his 18 stints in rehab from the age of 15, co-writer Nick Reiner's experience, thus far, differs in outcome from that of most drug addicts in that his ordeal (to date) has ended in a multi-million dollar movie. At times the film feels like a string of passages from a drug addict's diary, rewritten post-recovery to adhere to screenplay form. The script isn't bad; it's just not artfully enough constructed to get at the true emotional pain and satisfaction a subject this tragic could potentially mine. Nick's father, director Rob Reiner, is the gifted filmmaker responsible for such comic classics as When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride. Perhaps the collaborators are too close to the subject, as you get the sense that -- as earnest and workmanlike as this movie is -- emotions are held at bay.
And consequences are perhaps unintentionally mitigated by our knowledge that ultimately, Charlie's wealthy and caring parents will be there to help. As the co-author did in life, Charlie ends up temporarily on the street -- but as a child of privilege, we know that Charlie has choices money can buy, while many, many others in his position do not. Additionally, Charlie tries so hard to cover his pain and distance himself from his own situation with sarcasm and cynicism that he makes it tough for audiences to like him, to see beneath the armor to his decent core. And his father, however misinformed by experts about the most beneficial approach to Charlie's problem, is portrayed as a stock, clichéd villain who's only allowed to reveal actual feelings in the movie's final moments, at which time Charlie, too, exposes some emotions and vulnerabilities. It's all a bit to late to work. A Star Is Born, also about addiction buffered by wealth, tears your heart, while Being Charlie misses opportunities to dig into the pain and collateral damage of addiction. No doubt the Reiners truly felt all of that kind of pain, but the movie falls short of evoking it in us.