Movie Review: “Being Charlie”


Addiction and overcoming it is the most traumatic thing most people who endure it will ever experience.

Harrowing, dangerous, destroying your health and relationships and taking lives all around you, its very intensity must convince you that nobody has ever experienced anything like this.

Unfortunately, millions have. There’s so little that’s new or unique to say about it that it’s a subject that rarely makes for an enlightening or surprising movie.

So even though director Rob Reiner’s son co-wrote “Being Charlie,” an addiction/recovery drama loosely based on his own problems, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. That makes the movie a 97 minute slog to a conclusion we see coming in minute one.

We meet Charlie (Nick Robinson) as he’s bailing out of yet another rehab. It’s in Utah, and he leaves with an act of defiance — breaking the stained glass windows of the chapel.

His second act upon escaping? Hitchhiking. His third act? Stealing oxy pills from the driver’s elderly mother who is dying of cancer.

That’s the sort of creep Charlie is, an affluent punk of 18 who is deep down the rabbit hole of denial, arrogantly lying that “This time it’ll be different” to his wants-to-believe-mom (Susan Misner).

But it isn’t. The guy who dashes out to fetch him in Barstow (Devon Bostick) is his best friend, and best enabler. He’s into drugs and girls who are into drugs.

Spoiler alert. Charlie must A) figure this out the hard way and B) finally decide to “accept” his disease, and vow to help himself.

The wrinkles in that standard issue AA narrative are that Charlie’s dad is a famous pirate actor (Cary Elwes) running for governor, that Charlie meets a fetching, damaged girl (Morgan Saylor of “Homeland”) in recovery and that he’s an aspiring stand-up comic.

Romance “gets in the way of your recovery,” his counselor (Common) lectures. But Charlie knows better. Such sponsors, group therapy leaders and the like, are righteous folks, many of them recovering addicts themselves. But to Charlie, they’re just voyeurs looking for “courtside seats to human suffering.”

It’s hard to develop much sympathy for this rich kid’s self-inflicted trauma. And Reiner, whose last good movie was “Flipped” (2010), does nothing to help young Robinson (“Jurassic World”) rise above the utterly routine script. The direction is pedestrian and the movie, start to finish, makes us feel nothing.

Whatever high-mindedness was behind it, “Being Charlie” is no different from being any other addict. From intervention to check-in, group “sharing” at the halfway house to backsliding and skipping some of the twelve steps, we’ve seen it all before.

It takes nothing away from the awful thing people who experience this go through in saying that movies about it all too often are all tropes that render it trite.


MPAA Rating:unrated, with violence, drug abuse, nudity and sex, profanity

Cast: Nick Robinson, Morgn Saylor, Devon Bostick, Common, Cary Elwes
Credits: Directed by Rob Reiner , script by Matt Elisofon, Nick Reiner. A Paladin release.

Running time: 1:37

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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