A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this isn't an Adam Sandler comedy. Rather, it's a drama about a man's ongoing response to losing his family on 9/11. For much of the film, Sandler's character is ragged-looking, distraught, aggressive, and foul-mouthed -- though he can also be charming in a childish way. His visits to a therapist are mostly sad, as is his eventual lengthy description of his loss. There's lots of swearing and derogatory slang, as well as discussion of suicide (one nearly successful attempt is shown), insanity, institutionalization, and oral sex. Some yelling, pushing, and hitting takes place during a fight, and minor drinking in bar leads to an argument.
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- Kids say
What's the story?
When Alan (Don Cheadle) discovers Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) shuffling on a New York sidewalk, it's obvious that his onetime college roommate needs help. But even though Charlie is suffering dislocation and depression after losing his wife and daughters in a plane on 9/11, he's not the only character in REIGN OVER ME who could use a sense of purpose and connection.
Is it any good?
A disjointed meditation on loss, Mike Binder's film lines up a whole series of victims. As hard as Reign Over Me works to complicate Charlie's grief and rage (he's alternately twitchy and aggressive, frightening and pathetic), it offers a troubling, reductive contrast in one of Alan's patients, Donna (Saffron Burrows). Her "female" response to her own traumatic loss isn't edifying or sympathetic. Instead, Donna is driven into hypersexual stalker-spasms (she repeatedly offers Alan oral sex in his office). Her aggressiveness scares Alan and intrigues Charlie, who is mostly lost in an adolescent fixation on her breasts -- at least until she becomes his means to redemption.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the lingering effects of 9/11 on our culture. How have the media treated the event? How do tragic stories and images help us work through emotional wounds? How does Donna's trauma affect her differently than Charlie's affects him? Why do you think Charlie is so fond of popular culture that reminds him of his youth (comics, '80s bands, video games, etc.)? How does the media help define an era?
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