Release Date: May 13, 2016
Running Time: 97 minutes
Who knew kicking a drug habit could be so easy? In director Rob Reiner’s teen drama Being Charlie, the self-entitled son of a Hollywood actor turned California gubernatorial candidate reluctantly agrees to check into rehab to avoid being charged with a prescription drug crime. Before you can list the first of the 12 steps to recovery, Nick Robinson’s Charlie is clean, sober and on his way from a treatment center to an outpatient facility run by the very understanding Common. Charlie doesn’t wrestle with his inner demons. He’s not asked to resist with any temptations other than the advances of a fellow patient (Morgan Saylor’s Eva). One minute Charlie’s an addict; next he’s an addict in recovery. The most difficult challenge facing the aspiring stand-up comedian: mustering up the strength to get up on stage and perform his routine before an unfriendly audience. Too much is glossed over in Being Charlie, which seems odd considering this is a semi-biographical account of co-screenwriter Nick Reiner’s drug history. The son of Rob Reiner reportedly was in and out of treatment multiple times before he turned 18—just like his onscreen alter ego Charlie. I can’t imagine Nick Reiner had as easier time in treatment as Charlie, who simply suppresses his appetite in order to satisfy his demanding father, who is played with the appropriate amount of distraction by Cary Elwes. Heck, there’s nothing to be found in Robinson’s colorless performance that suggests Charlie’s life is on the line, even when events conspire against him and he relapses into his old ways. It’s hard to describe Being Charlie as a dishonest examination of drug recovery but it certainly has no interest in the dirty details of addiction and the demands of recovery. Rob Reiner seems more interested in exploring the dysfunctional relationship between Charlie and his father, whose political ambitions too often trumps his son’s health. There’s an effort to connect Rob Reiner to Cary Elwes’ David Mills—the former actor is best known for playing the role of a pirate. Elwes, of course, played the dashing swashbuckler Westley in Reiner’s 1987 bedtime story The Princess Bride. Rob Reiner, though, fails to get into the head of both the neglected son and the neglectful father, resulting in an absence in the necessary friction between the two that’s needed to drive the narrative Reiner pursues. Also, Being Charlie lacks the emotional punch and the psychological depth to invest us in Charlie’s abbreviated journey to recovery. While it’s good to see Rob Reiner take another break from dramedies and romantic comedies, his bread-and-butter of the past three decades, it’s a shame that he takes such a tentative approach to a story that is so personal to him and quite clearly cathartic to his son Nick.
Aired: May 12, 2016
Web sites: http://www.jorvaproductions.com/being-charlie and https://www.facebook.com/jorvafilms/