It can’t be easy living in the shadow of a success in your chosen field, let alone two. For screenwriter Nick Reiner, those shadows would be father Rob Reiner and grandfather Carl Reiner, both of whom have made legendary contributions to film and television. Those are some major shadows, and while Reiner has the help of his father in getting Being Charlie to the big screen, it makes this otherwise well-worn story feel like something that got made solely because of that connection.
Being Charlie explores a path to overcoming drug addiction for its titular character, a privileged, rich white kid whose behavior is appalling whether or not he’s high. Or, as Charlie (Nick Robinson) refers to himself, a kid with a silver spoon that he uses for heroin. He’s all too fine with destroying property as he leaves rehab or stealing drugs from an old woman. He’s clearly smart, and uses his sharp wit to eviscerate his parents and anyone else who might try to help.
Charlie’s famous father David (Cary Elwes), a former movie star running for governor of California, gives him an ultimatum: rehab or the streets. Charlie chooses rehab, where he almost instantly meets a girl named Eva (Morgan Saylor). Rather quickly, Charlie rushes through rehab and into a halfway house – and into a heavy romance with Eva. Recovery isn’t Charlie’s goal, though. It’s sleeping with Eva instead. Once this eventually happens, the film focuses on the relationship that’s really at the core of the story: the relationship between Charlie and David.
It’s a relationship that’s hard to root for, in any case. As much as Charlie may be annoying, David is presented as someone so ambitious about his career, he’s practically a villain. The two snipe at each other before an ending that feels unearned. And given that Being Charlie has some roots in Nick Reiner’s life – Reiner is a recovering drug addict who was estranged from his father for years – it’s easy to understand why that ending was wanted, but the path there just doesn’t work.
Being Charlie isn’t wholly unwatchable. Nick Robinson, who did solid work with The Kings of Summer and Jurassic World, does his best with the character, and he’s surrounded by a largely capable supporting cast. But it’s hard to make a bad script sound good. Given that Nick and Rob Reiner worked on this film together, it’s clear that the two have made up, which is great of course. But that behind-the-scenes bit of healing doesn’t make this film not work. It needed better guidance with its script, at the very least. Good intentions don’t make for a good film.