Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for language, sexual content and violence
Running Time: 113 min.
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer
Director: George Clooney
Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman (based on the book by Chuck Barris)
Review published January 15, 2003
Chuck Barris is perhaps best known as the host of "The Gong Show," a talent show of the weirdest and wildest amateur acts from around the country. To a lesser extent, he is known for being the creative force behind "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game," two of America's most renowned game shows. CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND is based on his memoirs on the creation of these shows, as well as in his trials and tribulations in the television industry. He also claims to have been hired by the CIA to put out hits around the world as an assassin for hire.
Sam Rockwell gives a terrific performance as Barris, especially his manic mannerisms and non-stop hand-clapping while emceeing The Gong Show, but the rest of his performance is just as impressive. It's a shame Rockwell's acting is mostly muted by Clooney's inexperience. Although many of the years depicted show Barris from his 20s up to his late 40s, we don't really get much of a sense of aging. Partially this is due the an absence of the little cues that show time passing, and even bigger is the lack of adequate make-up applied to Rockwell. Clooney has Rockwell baring his rear end at almost every opportunity. I gather since Clooney has to bare his in SOLARIS, Rockwell was going to do so as much as Clooney wanted.
Charlie Kaufman's adaptation of Chuck Barris' book isn't nearly as brilliant as the one he did for The Orchid Thief in ADAPTATION, but it isn't helped much by first-time director George Clooney's rather dour approach to what probably could have been a movie with a better sense of fun. Clooney may have misjudged the tone of Kaufman's script, as it looks like it was meant to be a much breezier affair, perhaps similar to the way Spike Jonze shoots Charlie's writing. Instead, Clooney shifts from the moods from humorous to serious to delirious, sometimes with more than one tone in a scene, and the result is awkward at times.
There are also some interviews with people associated with the game shows, such as J.P. Morgan and Jim Lange, but they aren't really interviews. They allow just one or two sentences about how they feel about Barris, and serve only to distract from the story when they are introduced, and are rather pointless. Either showing much more, or not having them at all, would have been a better storytelling decision.
CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND isn't a bad movie per se, it just never gels into a satisfying whole. Will we ever know the real Chuck Barris? If the words of his peers are any indication, I doubt anyone ever truly will. This film is for the most insatiably curious of viewers only.
©2003 Vince Leo