Man this movie looks gorgeous. And sounds gorgeous. What a soundtrack. It makes me wish this was a better movie. I think it’s a good one, but it coulda been a contender, you know? It really could have been something, and it came close.
Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) is a puddle of grief and sadness. He lost his wife, his dog, and his three beautiful little girls in 9\11 and now he’s alone in the world and wants to keep it that way. He won’t let anyone in because that would mean remembering. He roves the streets of New York on his Segway and you know it’s the dead of night because the streets are empty and just in case they’re not, he’s encased in the safety of his headphones, draining out even the slightest chance of human contact. He’s a mess, but this opening scene is a tender meditation.
Then one day his old college roommate Alan (Don Cheadle) sees him on the street. Charlie is so locked into his PTSD he can’t even recognize a man he lived with for two years. The two rekindle an odd friendship, Charlie on shaky footing but believing Alan is safe to let in because he never knew his family. But Charlie’s mental health is so deadened that Alan can’t ignore it, and seeks to find his friend the help he’s been staunchly refusing for years now.
Charlie is a portrait of grief that’s interesting and devastating to gaze upon. His house, once a family home, has degenerated into the saddest bachelor apartment you’ll ever see. His kitchen is in a constant state of renovation and demolition because that’s the last thing he and his wife fought about, and he can never quite bring himself to finish the project they started together. It is not lost on me that this is the third movie about grief and demolition that I’ve seen this month alone – Demolition, of course, and Life As a House, and now this. There must be something to it, this destruction of an old life, something cathartic. But it also made me think about those times when I leave the house mad. What if your last words were angry ones?
Sandler’s performance is moving but undisciplined, yet leaves absolutely no doubt that what we’re dealing with is a fucking broken heart. When he finally tells his story, it’s an effort, an ordeal not to look away. He sits in his dark apartment, playing video games, the imagery of which is not lost on the audience: a giant colossus is meant to topple in an attempt to bring a woman back to life. It’s sad and futile, and no matter the good intentions, we all must grieve in our own goddamned time.