Being Charlie is the new Rob Reiner film. After the huge success of Rob’s earlier and very diverse efforts, Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, Misery, The Princess Bride, and This is Spinal Tap, it is a success that is very hard to duplicate.
Being Charlie is a very personal film to Rob, since he not only directed but produced it and his son Nick wrote the screenplay.
Based on his own rich kid upbringing, the central character, Charlie (Nick Robinson from Jurassic World) is a kid with a whole heap of problems. He is wealthy, good looking, and wanting for nothing, except heroin. The film opens with Charlie running away from a rehab center on his 18th birthday. Charlie does it in dynamic style by breaking a stained glass window of the chapel as he leaves. He hitches a ride with a nice guy who has an invalid mother. Charlie promptly enters their home and steals all the drugs he can find out of the bathroom medicine cabinet. Later on when the driver discovers what happened, he beats Charlie and kicks him out on the lonely highway.
Charlie has a very poor relationship with his father (Cary Elwes, best known from NYPD Blue and Princess Bride), a former swashbuckling actor who is now running for Governor of California, which is a job that Rob Reiner (at one time) strongly considered. There is an obvious tension between father and son. Making this film together may have been quite therapeutic for both Rob and Nick.
The self absorbed father seems very uninterested in his son’s welfare. Keeping him out of the news is his main goal, so he can win his election. Young Nick Robinson at first looks too much like a Hollywood pretty boy to be believed, until he opens his mouth. He has great range in portraying a troubled young man that is looking for love and acknowledgement anywhere he can find it. He even attempts stand-up comedy, and is quite good at it, much to the chagrin of his father.
Charlie is loyal to his girlfriend (Morgen Saylor), his lifelong best friend (Devon Bostick,), and his mother. Charlie claims he uses drugs to “escape the noise” of modern living.
In addition to excellent performances by all of the aforementioned actors, the most gripping performance may be by Common. He makes the most of his screen time as the den father of a halfway house. He is very commanding as a recovering addict that went to prison for 2 years, and knows the drill.
Being Charlie is extremely explicit in it’s drug use and sexual situations, but definitely strikes a chord. I wasn’t real fond of the ending, as the dad comes around way too much out of character after winning his election. But then thankfully, the real life story had a happy ending also.
This very personal effort from Rob Reiner is the best he has accomplished in decades.