Movie Review - Being Charlie

Director Rob Reiner is good when he has good material. Reiner is known for making Stand By Me (1986) and A Few Good Men (1992). For those films, he had material from Stephen King and Aaron Sorkin, two notable and acclaimed writers.

This film's material did not spring from someone even close to King or Sorkin's leagues. The writers are Matt Elisofan and Nick Reiner. Nick Reiner is the son of Rob Reiner and essentially co-wrote this semi-autobiographical tale with Elisofan, a man he met in drug rehab. While it might have been cathartic, it's not well-constructed.

Nick Robinson (Melissa & Joey and Jurassic World) stars as the titular Charlie, a guy who just celebrated his 18th birthday in Utah at some kind of church or shelter or something. He hitchhikes back to his parents' mansion-like home in California where they surprise him with an intervention to force him into going to rehab. The film follows as Charlie goes to rehab, meets a girl there whom he pursues and then eventually ends up becoming a stand-up comedian.

Aesthetically, this movie looks super-familiar. A young, white male, privileged and dealing with an addiction, having the super-relatable problem of too much wealth and status. It would almost be a James Ponsoldt film. It would almost be Smashed (2012) or The Spectacular Now (2013) if the central character were an unlikable and spoiled brat, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and sitting in the lap of luxury.

He has a pretty pointless and ultimately meaningless romance with a girl named Eva, played by Morgan Saylor (Homeland and McFarland, USA). By the end, we're supposed to buy that he becomes a stand-up comedian despite no evidence of him actually doing the work to write or craft jokes. We have to swallow that he can just listen to Moms Mabley or whoever's comedy album and then hop on stage and be a comic virtuoso.

There is a scene where Charlie is taken to a back alley and beaten up. It ends up being a non-consequential scene, so the question is why does it exist in this movie. Narratively, it makes no sense. It's not as if he's robbed or threatened. It's literally a thing that happens for no reason, which is emblematic of how this movie operates.

The ending to the film is rather stupid. It would almost have us believe that he never was an addict and he was snapped out of it one night. It's not that simple and the movie tries to have an emotional arc, but it doesn't work.

Cary Elwes (The Princes Bride and Saw) plays David Mills, the father of Charlie. David is a former actor who had a famous TV show and now he's running for Governor of the state. It's great that Reiner gave Elwes who is a great actor something to do, but the time spent on David's political campaign is time wasted when we could be further exploring how his teenage son got into drugs and the more underlying problems that resultede in this.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for drug use, sexuality, nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.


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