Written and Photos By: Julia Siegel
The third day of the Montclair Film Festival was incredibly busy for me. I capped off the night by seeing director Rob Reiner’s new film, Being Charlie. Co-written by Nick Reiner, Rob’s son, Being Charlie delves into the world of drug addiction. Charlie and his experiences are loosely based off Nick Reiner’s personal experiences and tribulations with drug addiction. The film covers topics such as recovery, family, first love, and succumbing to the disease.
Charlie, played by Nick Robinson (Jurassic World), is an eighteen year old high school drop-out that suffers from drug addiction. Throughout the film, we learn that Charlie has struggled with drugs for a few years and has been in and out of various rehab venues. His battle to finally become sober begins after his father, who is running for governor, throws Charlie out of the house and threatens to put him in jail if he doesn’t complete a new rehab program. Charlie sees through his father’s fury, knowing that he wants Charlie out of the way until the election is over.
Most of the film shows Charlie’s commitment to becoming a better person as he embraces rehab. His decision to go through with the program is streamlined by his growing interest in fellow young rehabber, Eva. The two struggle to stay on the wagon together, while pushing each other to get through the program. Eventually, the friendship becomes something more, as Charlie experiences his first love. Like any normal teenager, love makes Charlie blind and dumb to things that are going on around him, leading him to make some poor choices.
At its core, Being Charlie is a coming-of-age story wrapped in a battle of drug addiction. Charlie rebels against the ideas of becoming his own man, which sends him further down a spiraling path. The film allows Robinson to show a more exposed and emotional side of himself, as his character deals with joy, love, grief, and his worst nightmares. I really enjoyed Robinson’s performance because he showed that he is more versatile than playing sultry teenagers, like his role in Jurassic World. Robinson was definitely the perfect choice for the role of Charlie, and he has a bright future ahead of him if he keeps giving good performances.
One thing that I didn’t like about the film is that it was a little hard to get into at the beginning. It started too slow and took a while to pick up speed. The film does gather a better pace as it continues, but relies too heavily on teenage love. The story would have benefitted more if the source of Charlie’s struggles weren’t so heavily focused on his love for a girl he barely knows.
At the conclusion of the film, Rob and Nick Reiner conducted a Q&A session on their experiences working together and some real life stories of Nick’s battles. Rob Reiner said that working with his son was an incredible experience that he wouldn’t replace with anything. Both felt that the experience was therapeutic for their own relationship, which is now in a much better place than the past. Nick said that he never thought his screenplay would be picked up by his father, let alone be directed by him. For Nick, writing the film was a way to share his stories. It wasn’t meant to help anyone with their struggles, but if it does, Nick will be grateful to have provided some indirect help.
Overall, my long, exciting day at the festival ended with a good film that I’m sure all Rob Reiner fans will enjoy. Hearing the father and son discuss their film was the most moving part of the night, as it was obvious how much they both cared about this film. Being Charlie will be limited release in New York City starting Friday, May 6.