Charlie Sheen stopped being funny to me long ago. And I’m talking “immediately after ‘Major League 2,’” not “when he clearly completely lost his marbles.” When he turned into a sideshow, watching him became something I simply couldn’t do, much as I can’t watch other sideshow performers shove nails up their noses. For all intents and purposes, I stopped thinking about Charlie Sheen altogether.
And then I saw “The Way,” out Friday in select theaters. In it, Martin Sheen — Charlie’s dad — plays a man who loses his son, played by Charlie’s brother, Emilio Estevez. The film first serves as a reminder that Martin Sheen can really, really act. But it might also be seen as a predictor. The film was shot in 2009, before Charlie’s crazy circus act, so I wouldn’t say that Martin’s performance was affected by all the tiger blood and the winning. But watching Tom, Martin’s character, identify his son’s body, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s what he’s going to look like when Charlie dies. That’s what Martin Sheen looks like when he loses his boy.”
This movie deserves publicity that doesn’t come from Charlie Sheen’s implosion; it’s moving and funny and an international showcase of outstanding performances. But Martin’s performance is so heartbreaking, so utterly devastating, that you have to hope it’s not a preview of things to come.