CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND
Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) is young and ambitious, intent on a successful career in the early days of television. He quickly gains a profile as a producer, creating innovative and popular game shows such as The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and the self-hosted The Gong Show. But while acting as the travel chaperone for winners of the television programmes, he is recruited by the CIA’s Jim Byrd (George Clooney) to act as an assassin in foreign countries. Meantime at home, Barris’ long time girlfriend Penny Pacino (Drew Barrymore) doesn’t know and can’t understand why her man is away so frequently.
Review by Louise Keller:
An offbeat and unexpected tale of the dual life of a tv game show host, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is an intriguing, bizarre and challenging film that invites us into a world filled with larger-than-life characters and strange occurrences. Marking screen heart throb George Clooney’s first foray into directing, this choice of project all at once reinforces Clooney’s diversity and interest in telling a pretty wild story. The fact that his father hosted a tv talk show when he was growing up no doubt also triggered his interest, and it’s not surprising that during the closing credits, we are graced with the musical talents of his late aunt, Rosemary Clooney, in a jazzy rendition of There’s No Business Like Showbusiness. But back to Confessions… This is far from an ordinary story, and through the twisted pen of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, we are guaranteed enough crazy elements to keep the most agile of minds zinging. With a combination of Kaufman’s own take on the story coupled with thoughts from Chuck Barris’ complex mind, there’s an element of hit and miss about the whole film. Recounted as a sort of cautionary tale, we first meet our protagonist standing naked in front of a mirror. It is not a pretty sight. We assume this nakedness is part of the revelation of the truth that we are about to hear during the next 100 minutes or so. We flit backwards in time through the 50s, 60s and 70s as well as making a quick stop in the 40s when a very young Barris makes his first seduction with the promise that it ‘tastes like a strawberry lollypop’. From concept to the execution of The Dating Game tv show and Barris’ subsequent incredible recruitment into the CIA, he zigzags through the madness with ferocity and insanity. The plot may be confusion, but the cast is wonderful, with Sam Rockwell irritatingly brilliant as Barris. It’s credit to Rockwell that he keeps us engaged, despite the fact that his character is really rather obnoxious. Clooney has cast himself well as the poker-faced (albeit very handsome) CIA recruiter and pulled in a few famous friends to help. Drew Barrymore is lovely as Barris’ tolerant and vulnerable girl, and look out for a delicious cameo (with no lines) by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon who appear as unsuccessful contestants in The Dating Game. Julia Roberts, as the international operative with bright scarlet lips and a wide brimmed hat holds our attention, but many of her scenes seem to be concealing ‘in-jokes’, which does no favours for either the storyline or the characters. There are also intermittent appearances by Chuck Barris himself, as well as Dick Clark and Joe Cobden stands in for Murray Langston, the Unknown Comic who made appearances wearing a brown paper bag over his head. Whether or not the story is entirely true, is neither here nor there; it’s an entertaining insight. It will be interesting to see what project Clooney chooses next.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Hey, what if the CIA recruited a tv show host as an offshore hitman – the perfect cover -and the double life elements make great copy. It’s the sort of thing that could inspire a man to write a book, especially if he was a real tv producer with shows as tacky as The Dating Game or The Gong Show. The juxtaposition of occupations is of such intensity as to be ethereal. But how do you pull it off? Nobody would take it seriously. You can’t spoof your own work – nobody’d finance that, it’s creative death and commercial suicide. Ahaaa, but what if the tv producer and presenter was a REAL one…. Chuck Barris, say. Now you’re talking turkey. And so it was that George Clooney read Barris’ book and decided this was the project he would use as his directing debut. Lots of pluses to work with, including the fact that nobody would question the storyline. (Well, you know what I mean.) And when big name stars started falling over each other to play even roles like the Unknown Comic* with a paper bag over their heads, he must have realised the projects had potential. Mike Myers was going to play Barris at one stage, but it finally went to Sam Rockwell, and just as well. Myers would have been wonderful, but the film needs to stay within the vague realms of possibility. Myers would have blown that, purely by his screen persona (can you see him as anything but Austin Powers?) Riddled with self doubt and always on the edge of a nervous breakdown, Rockwell’s Barris is a hyperactive firecracker zig-zagging through his life. It’s great fun to watch and we are never sure what exactly is going on – but we know that something is. *Trivia to titillate you: in a large Las Vegas hotel some years ago, I saw the very funny and original The Unknown Comic (real name Murray Langston), just after The Gong Show had catapulted him to fame, and met him backstage – then in my capacity as Editor of Encore magazine, which in those days covered live entertainment. He had volunteered for The Gong Show to make a bit of money, but he was too embarrassed to appear on the show as himself, then a struggling stand up comic. So he put a bag over his head and billed himself as The Unknown Comic.
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CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND (MA)
CAST: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts,
PRODUCER: Andrew Lazar
DIRECTOR: George Clooney
SCRIPT: Charlie Kaufman (novel by Chuck Barris)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Newton Thomas Sigel
EDITOR: Stephen Mirrione ACE
MUSIC: Alex Wurman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jim Bissell
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 24, 2003