Being Charlie Review - Compelling, Gripping, One of the Ten Best of 2016

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Being Charlie, from Castle Rock Entertainment and Defiant Pictures, and presents a shocking, impacting, compelling story of addiction and how the disease cuts through the lives of family and friends in its efforts seek, kill and destroy.  


Directed by Rob Reiner, Being Charlie stars Nick Robinson Morgan Slayer, Devon Bostick, Susan Misner, Ricardo Chavira, Common and Cary Elwes. Being Charlie was written by Nick Reiner and Matt Elisofon.

Being Charlie opens with a birthday celebration, one believes and then discovers that Charlie, played by Nick Robinson, is in rehab. His sobriety and drug free days are rare and only when he is forced does he remain clean. Today however is not one of them, waking from his nightmare, he heads out the door, pausing, he picks up a rock and throws it through a beautiful stained glass window.

Hitching a ride he ends up in the truck of a local red neck, with a sick mother, who agrees to take him as far as the local bus depot after he takes his mom back to her place.

Our ever resourceful Charlie, who can sniff out drugs better than any FBI trained dog, asks his kind stranger to use the bathroom. He opens the medicine cabinet and there you have it the mother load. OxyContin, the staple painkiller of the ill.

Back in the truck, Charlie high on the sick woman’s oxies that he steals, not just pops a couple and heads back, he takes the prescription. However, the dosage is too much and he nods out when the driver asks him for a smoke the bottle falls out of his pocket.  Charlie finds himself, tossed on some lonely stretch of highway somewhere in Utah.

Charlie has one solid friend left, Adam, played by Devon Bostick. The two were childhood friends, both from Bel-Air, children of the elite, with easy lives and disposable income, and pre-occupied career driven parents.

The two are headed back home. Cushy Bel-Air, entitled Charlie, can’t seem to catch a break. As soon as he gets in the door, his parents David Mills, played by Cary Elwes, the once famous actor, turned politician with three months before the election and his mom, Liseanne Mills, played by Susan Misner, are waiting with a stranger.

The Gubernatorial  candidate decides to confront Charlie again on his addiction, through an intervention, Charlie is given the ultimatum return to rehab somewhere. The invention ends as most do; loudly, hurtfully.

As life continues to change, Adam is heading off to college and Charlie stuck in the binge hell of addiction. Adam’s parents are still funding his life and in a month he is off to college with his own apartment. Until then he explains the options are limited. And with the Gubernatorial hopeful willing to foot the bill of another treatment center, why not?

For Charlie, every treatment center is the same. A game, where he is the master player and the workers the challenges and obstacles he has to get past to make it to the next level.

This one is no different. With Drake, played by Ricardo Chavira, one step ahead of Charlie and honestly has difficulty relating to the rich kid who threw it all away for the seductive white powder.

Soon he is working the system, and deciding to bolt he runs into Eva, played by Morgan Saylor, a recovery addict also. She manages to keep Charlie from leaving and the two become the dependency they desperately crave.

One day, ten days, thirty days, Charlie has finally made actual progress and has stayed sober and clean. He is transferred to the halfway house which is where we meet Travis, played by Common, the resident assistant, an ex con, addict, someone who has seen some of it and readily admits he hasn’t seen it all and doesn’t want to.

For Travis, he is all about keeping the guys from relapsing and losing the round to the drug. The second half of Being Charlie begins when freedom is earned and the weekend pass for both Charlie and Eva is finally earned.

Taking Eva to the Malibu Beach house, showing her the King’s Ransom so to speak, at a time when she is still unstable, in rehab, barely able to maintain, became the domino effect. The two have frantic sex, and she begins to manipulate Charlie by critiquing his less than stellar performance. After a couple of well-placed verbal jabs, she pounces on how this evening would be better with wine.

Next morning, the empties are in the kitchen and Eva is nowhere to be found.

Being Charlie is magnetic from the opening scenes. I was caught up in the lives of these characters from the moment the film began. As the end credits began to roll, the media in attendance remained seated, house lights came up, the media remained seated, watching as the end credits continues and the film ended, the media remained seated. It was a shocking, real, substantive film.

Rob Reiner masterfully directs an equally masterful screenplay. You will never think of Cary Elwes in the same way again. He skillfully reaches the places, the anger at his child for being addicted; hiding the fullness of the trouble from those, in this case, the voters, who he needs.

Nick Robinson, Morgan Saylor and Devon Bostick, the three levels of addiction, are spot on in their portrayals of the hardened lives of addicts. Common gives another noteworthy performance. 

Being Charlie, is loosely based on the experiences of Nick Reiner, Rob Reiner’s son, who lived in eight states at various rehab programs. Life for the addict is a living hell. It is hell on the families, and hell on the user. Lying to relatives, those whom we care for and about, when addicts disappear. Hoping against hope, that they come back this time alive, which is also where Being Charlie goes.

Rob Reiner doesn’t pull the punches as he shows the cycle most addicts live if treatment facilities are possible, clean and sober, strung out and craving. 

Being Charlie is a speed ball rush without sugar coating the evil of cocaine addiction. 

Being Charlie opens May 6, 2016. See this film. Being Charlie is one of 2016's ten best!

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