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The Mass Media

Reigning Ribald

Sandlers new role is broken and funny.
Sandler’s new role is broken and funny.

Can comedians really act? Or are they just there to make us laugh? Well, if history is any indication, they can act as well. Whoopi Goldberg was a stand up comedienne once, before she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1990 for Ghost. Jamie Foxx, former star of the sketch comedy show The Jamie Foxx Show, won a Best Actor Oscar in 2004 for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the biopic Ray. Jim Carrey was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Robin Williams was in Good Will Hunting. So, it’s been done before.

Now another funny man attempts to make the move from comedy to drama. Adam Sandler has taken on somewhat dramatic roles before. Remember Punch Drunk Love? So, we know that Sandler is capable of stepping out of the more sophomoric roles of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore and taking on something a bit more serious.

In director Mike Binder’s new film Reign Over Me, Sandler takes on his most challenging role to date. Sandler plays Charlie Fineman, an ex-dentist who has lost his entire family in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He has reverted into the shattered life of an isolated “child,” retreating into video games and rock music. He is a man struggling to keep alive a life that has long since been lost.

The film co-stars Don Cheadle as Sandler’s ex-college roommate, Dr. Alan Johnson, who only remembers the positive, outgoing Fineman from before the attacks. The two men run into each other on a busy street in Manhattan, and an engaging, yet sometimes disturbing friendship is rekindled. The film follows Fineman through his torment, unraveling the pain as it goes. There are moments of humor, many of them in fact, that break up the suffering. The script, written by Binder, weaves the funny with the sad brilliantly, masking the comedy with tragedy and vice versa. You don’t know whether to laugh or to cry, but you can’t help alternating between both.

Cheadle is brilliant as always, but it is Sandler that steals the spotlight. Trying to portray a man whose spirit and sanity have been crushed by hideous circumstance is a stretch for anyone, let alone a man who is known for having had a fistfight with Bob Barker on a golf course. But, he does it, and he does it well. Watching a man wind his way through the ultimate torment is excruciatingly painful, one can’t help but shed a tear or two at the very least, but in the end it is all worth it. You watch a fallen man, a man already scraping rock bottom, as he struggles to face the pain and to rise above it.

This is a story of an entire city getting over its collective pain, told through the experiences of one man. It is the suffering of millions condensed into one broken life. Sandler drags the audience through the agony of having lost everything that matters. Binder’s script, along with Sandler’s performance, pulls the audience into the darkest depths of human suffering, raising them back up again moments later with laughter, only to send them crashing down again in an instant. Reign Over Me is a roller coaster ride of emotion, death and life stuffed into the same compelling package.

I don’t want to go throwing around the Oscar card, mainly because I tend to be wrong most of the time, but in this case it seems unavoidable. The content, stellar performances from Sandler and Cheadle, Binder’s script and his direction all spell out N-O-M-I-N-A-T-I-O-N. Reign Over Me is currently being shown in theaters nationwide and should not be missed.

About the Contributor
Michael Hogan served as the following positions at The Mass Media for the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Spring 2008; Fall 2008 Arts Editor: Spring 2007; Fall 2007