When the film premiered at Sundance this past January, Fredrik Bond’s directorial debut was titled The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. Someone must’ve realized this title may encourage disenchanted critics to comment on how unnecessary this movie is, and thus it simply became Charlie Countryman. The film features a stellar cast, but they can’t overcome the jarring, overwrought soundtrack and preposterous storyline that missed the mark when trying to be endearingly unrealistic. Thankfully, the notoriously self-serious Shia Lebouf held the film together with earnest sincerity.
Following the begged-for advice of his recently decreased mother’s ghost, Charlie Countryman (Shia Lebouf) embarks for Bucharest (she meant to tell him to go to Budapest). While on the plane, he meets a Romanian man, and after a jovial conversation he awakens to the man sleeping dead on his shoulder. He again converses with a dead person—note that interactions with both his dead mother and this dead plane passenger occur after he’s taken a number of sleeping pills—and the man asks him to deliver a silly hat he bought to his daughter.
Charlie then meets the man’s daughter, Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood). She’s beautiful, mysterious, and plays the cello in the Bucharest Opera House. Oh—and she’s married to a Romanian gangster (Mads Mikkelsen), who she warns will kill Charlie within a week if he doesn’t leave her alone. Obviously, he falls madly in love with her within a day.
Charlie’s days then become a blur of pursuing Gabi, taking drugs with his hostel mates (Rupert Grint and James Buckley), and evading the Romanian mobsters chasing him. At one point, he begrudgingly leaves Gabi (at her request), is soon thereafter hit by a car, and then awakens in his hostel where his hostel mate tells him to take a codeine (“If I can’t travel freely with my trunk of drugs then the terrorists have won.”) and get ready for a titty bar because his other hostel mate’s taken six Romanian Viagras.
Believing each ridiculous moment after the other, Shia Lebouf delivers an earnest performance, even through the Bourne-like chase sequences, that keeps the audience in their seats but cannot save the film from an overall disjointed effort. Charlie represents every twenty-something with the luxury to search for themselves by immersing in another culture – but immersing into this movie seems like an even more difficult task. Sorry, Charlie.
The film opens at the AMC Methuen today, and is on various VOD channels including iTunes.