Charlie (Shia LeBeouf) might have been an interesting character, if we had known him better, but we never understand his reasons for repeatedly risking death to court Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood). He calls it love, but we don’t accept his explanation, probably because the two only know each other a few days. His grief isn’t enough explanation either.
Gabi is even less well developed. Other than being the last person to whom her father spoke, Charlie gives her little reason to like him, his persistence notwithstanding. Neither Matt Drake’s script nor Fredrik Bond’s direction bothers to explain why she does. Much less why she supposedly loves him.
Which means the audience never accepts Charlie Countryman’s central romance, a fact that proves problematic given how the plot hinges on it.
Moreover, this movie is over-directed. Bond’s camera jumps around too much; close ups are held too close to actors’ faces; the score is often so loud it drowns out the actors’ dialogue; actors aren’t given space to emote, because Bond uses too many cutaways and other editing transitions; and so forth. I suspect Bond wants to create the same disorientation Jaco Van Dormael creates in Mr. Nobody, but he fails. Instead of disorienting his audience, Bond distracts us from the linear story.
The script doesn’t help. Not only are the characters and romance underdeveloped, but the coincidences also pile high. When the story demands we finally meet Darko (Til Schweiger), Charlie, Luc and Karl (underused James Buckley and Rupert Grint) offend him. Charlie sees Gabi crying in a parked car at just the perfect time. Coincidences like these render the film frenetically over-paced. We never have opportunity to process what’s happening in this movie, because something new is always happening.
Similarly, Bond and Drake add and drop too many ad hoc threads. To name a few: why can Charlie see his mother’s (Melissa Leo) soul leave her body? Why can he talk to the dead? Or can he? What are the party scenes about? Etc?
Charlie Countryman, in other words, is not a good movie.
But it’s cast prevents it from being a complete failure. LeBeouf’s performance is terrific, maybe his finest to date. Mads Mikkelsen (Nigel) and Evan Rachel Wood are good, as always. In her few scenes, Melissa Leo is fantastic. Which is to say: in spite of the director and script, Charlie Countryman’s actors make it at least somewhat watchable.