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Film / Reign Over Me

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Let In the Unexpected

One of Adam Sandler's rare forays outside of comedy, Reign Over Me is a 2007 melodrama about two old friends who fell out of touch and are re-united in post-9/11 New York City.

Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), a dentist, is on his way home from work when he spots his old college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Sandler), leaving a hardware store. Two weeks later, Alan runs into Charlie again, and this time insists on catching up over a cup of coffee. The two eventually become friends again, but Charlie aggressively distances himself from Alan anytime the issue of Charlie's family comes up. It is revealed that Charlie lost his wife and daughters in the September 11 attacks as they were on American Airlines Flight 11, and that he has been having great difficulty coping with the loss.

This film provides examples of:

  • Angrish: Charlie's preferred method of expressing his anger.
  • Berserk Button: For most of the film, the idea of people forcing him to see a shrink sets Charlie into a rage.
  • Bittersweet Ending: More sweet than bitter. Charlie ends up not needing to be committed, makes peace with his in laws, mending their relationship, moves out of his family's old home with Alan's help and starts to make progress in moving forward with his life, including having a Ship Tease with another troubled patient of his therapist, Donna Remar, hinting at a more healthy future for the both of them.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Charlie is like this for most of the film, as is Donna.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alan's receptionist, Melanie.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Part of Alan's subplot is that he's taken for granted at home and at work. Alan's standing up for himself parallels Charlie's starting to come out from under the weight of his guilt and tragedy and start living for himself again.
  • Get Out!: Both Alan and his receptionist order his stalker patient out of the office, with the latter being much louder about it.
  • Happily Married: Charlie and his late wife. He even said that unlike many men's wives, she never nagged.
  • Jerkass:
    • Charlie's in-law's lawyer. The presiding judge even orders him at one point to "shut up." Granted, this was in the privacy of judge's chambers.
    • Alan's one patient, who flirts with him and tries to entice him into an affair and once that fails, tries to sue him for inappropriate behavior.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Charlie's wife and children were on American Airlines Flight 11, which was hijacked by terrorists and crashed into the North Tower on 9/11.
  • Pac Man Fever: Averted. Charlie can be seen playing Shadow of the Colossus, and he plays it convincingly; if you watch carefully, you can see that he's defeating the colossi in order. Adam Sandler said in an interview that they didn't want the game to just be a throwaway bit of characterization, and actually picked this specific game to symbolically represent Charlie overcoming his grief.
  • Parting-Words Regret: One of the things that eats away at Charlie most of all, the last time he spoke to his wife before she and their family were killed was snapping at her on the phone over something as trivial as kitchen remodeling when he was in a hurry to work. This in turn leads to him obsessively repainting and remodeling his kitchen over and over in the present.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: When privately speaking to Charlie's in-laws, the judge tells them that he now fully understands how sensitive Charlie is towards the subject of his family's death. He sympathetically tells them that he wants them to privately make a decision over the weekend on whether or not to have Charlie committed to an institution so that he can receive treatment and therapy.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Charlie playing Shadow of the Colossus is is a brilliant metaphor, since the plot revolves around pursuing and knocking down giant creatures the size of buildings who had done nothing to incur the attack, much like the fall of the Twin Towers themselves. Not only that, but the main character of the game, Wander, is on a quest to resurrect his dead lover, not unlike Charlie having lost his wife and daughters.
  • Shown Their Work: The use of Shadow of the Colossus wasn't mere Pac Man Fever. For example, all the colossi fought in the film were done in the actual game order. Not only that, but the choice of game also has major thematic implications on the plot.
  • Suicide by Cop: Attempted by Charlie after the depression gets too much for him.
  • Used to Be More Social: Charlie before the attacks.
  • What The Hell Lawyer: The judge has this reaction to the in-laws' lawyer in his chambers after witnessing him place a picture of Charlie's dead family on the table in front of him during his "Love, Reign O'er Me" freak-out.