A half-dozen instants of stunning empathy and insight redeem everything in Reign Over Me that is undigested or sentimental. It's a courageous, moving, organically funny picture about the slow-healing sadness that occurs when private grief gets interspersed with public events. It's about the need to thrash things out.
Picture a man still crazed by the loss of his wife and daughters on Sept. 11 who watches TV news for the first time in years, then switches to a classic movie station showing You Were Never Lovelier. As Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth team up on Jerome Kern's "I'm Old Fashioned," with its soft-shoe Johnny Mercer lyrics - "That's how I want to be/As long as you agree/To stay old-fashioned with me" - the sweet adult perfection of the number levels him worse than reports from "the war on terror."
Reign Over Me (Columbia Pictures) Starring Don Cheadle, Adam Sandler, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Saffron Burrows. Directed by Mike Binder. Rated R. Time 120 minutes.