A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Being Charlie is a very mature drama about a privileged, drug-addicted teen who brings a defiant, self-sabotaging attitude to the many attempts made (however ineptly) to help him. His father offers tough love, his mother compassion, but nothing really gets Charlie's attention until a friend overdoses. Charlie is also mugged and beaten, and his bloody face is seen. Many different kinds of drugs are used or discussed. In a sexual situation, a nude woman is seen from behind, and there is a glimpse of her breast. There's also kissing and fondling, and plenty of crude discussion about different kinds of sex. Language is very strong, with frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," "bitch," "c--t," and "d--k."
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What's the story?
BEING CHARLIE is about what happens when the ignorance of youth mixes with the disease of addiction. Director Rob Reiner has stated that the film is a personal piece he made in collaboration with his son, Nick, a first-time screenwriter chronicling something resembling his own experiences as an addict. Defiant, sarcastic, and spoiled, Charlie (Nick Robinson) leaves many rehab programs, briefly lives on the street, alternately gets clean and then uses again. It happens over and over, all inconveniently set against the backdrop of his father's run for governor of California. The former star of a successful series of pirate movies, the smug and self-absorbed David (Cary Elwes) is painted as the villain of the story, but he explains that his insensitive actions have supposedly been taken on the advice of addiction experts. Unfortunately it's all served to alienate Charlie. Charlie alternates between drug use and rehab until a friend dies of an overdose. Will he finally change his ways for good?
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Being Charlie portrays depicts substance use and addiction. Is it glamorized in any way? Do you think openly discussing the dangers of addiction might help younger people avoid drug and alcohol abuse?
What are the repercussions of drug use in this movie? Why is it important for kids to see consequences?
- In theaters: May 6, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 4, 2016
- Cast: Nick Robinson, Cary Elwes, Common
- Director: Rob Reiner
- Studio: Castle Rock Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: drug use, sexuality/nudity, and language throughout
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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