Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Nick Robinson, Morgan Saylor
2 (out of 5) Globes
“Being Charlie” is only a return-to-form if you’re Rob Reiner. It’s been 21 years — and even longer since his heyday of “This is Spinal Tap” and “The Princess Bride” — since he’s done anything even vaguely watchable, at least as a filmmaker. (We’ll never speak ill of his acting, particularly if we’re talking “The Wolf of Wall Street.”) As such it’s very easy to overvalue his new drug saga, which finds Reiner back to thinking about the occasional interesting shot, back to balancing a tricky tone, this time between the harrowing and the astutely comical. You might even want to forgive the many times it goes off the rails, falling back on the stock cliches it seemed too cool to perpetuate.
Technically speaking it shouldn’t have worked at all. Reiner directs a script by his son Nick, who spent part of his teen years struggling with addiction. The semi-autobiographical tale finds Nick Robinson (“Kings of Summer,” “Jurassic World”) as Charlie, Reiner the younger’s stand-in: a rich kid once again finds himself in rehab, partly not to embarrass his dad, a famous actor-turned-aspiring pol (played by Cary Elwes). It could be family therapy, and to a degree it is. But it also remembers to think about us, the audience. Reiner the elder is at his best when finding the funny in un-funny circumstances, and “Being Charlie” is a drug film more about foibles than histrioinics. Speeches are few and sharp observational jokes are aplenty, and Charlie’s dalliance with a fellow sufferer (Morgan Saylor) refuses to head in predictable or pat directions.
Other plots do, though. Despite the father-son team-up going on off-screen, the relationship between Charlie and his pops is eye-rollingly one-note, with Elwes hamming it up as a monstrous father who’d crush his kid’s dreams if it meant winning the California governorship. (Reiner never ran himself, though he did once consider it.) And though its depiction of rehab is more chill and relaxed and realistic than any drug movie, it still sometimes plays like a sitcom, with most of the denizens reduced to a funny tic or outlandish story. It needed at least two more drafts — though, given the gulley Reiner’s been in for far too long, this is almost good enough.