Newest Review: ... familiar with the writings of scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman will immediately recognise his hand all over this script. It follows his usu... more
Charlie and the Screenplay Factory
Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (DVD)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (DVD)
Advantages: The superb Sam Rockwell, great writing from Charlie Kaufma
Disadvantages: A tad too long, some unneccessary scenes
Of course, there is. Chuck Barris claimed in his autobiography (also entitled "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind") that at the height of his television success he was recruited as an assassin by the CIA. Although his claims are unsubstantiated they have never been disproved. Whether or not there is any truth to his claims this makes for a fascinating story which has in turn produced a fascinating and highly entertaining film.
The story starts as Chuck Barris is drifting from job to job. Chuck is a womanising guy with seemingly no commitment to anyone or anything. He gets a lucky break when he lands a job as a television studio guide - showing visitors around the studios so they can see how things work and how programmes are made. He has an idea for a television programme, develops it and then pitches it to the TV executives who, after some hard work on Chuck's part, go for it. This is just the beginning for Chuck. Almost overnight he becomes a huge star, dreaming up more and more ratings winners.
At the peak of his fame he is approached on the street by a CIA agent who tells him that he is perfect material to be a contract man for them. After a series of intense training sessions he is given his first murderous mission. He is able to travel abroad to carry out his instructions under the cover of his television show "The Dating Game" - the winning couple go on a date overseas, the destination always chosen by Chuck. It's often not anyone's idea of a dream date and the winners are often less than pleased with the location.
Barris is increasingly unable to handle the fame which he thought he always wanted. He finds himself unable to live two lives and the strain begins to show. Fired by the television company, he ends up in a seedy hotel trying to create some semblance of order in his life.
Or so Chuck Barris claims.....
Sam Rockwell carries this movie in his role as Chuck Barris. He portrays the at once self-loathing and self-important Barris perfectly. We see that Barris is constantly seeking the limelight, he is thoughtless and almost cruel to the long-suffering Penny but Rockwell manages to leave just a little room for sympathy. At the end his broken Barris is fantastic.
George Clooney plays Jim Bird, the stony agent who recruits Barris. He plays the part adequately, nothing remarkable but certainly a credible performance, sufficiently mysterious and authoritative. Rutger Hauer has a smaller role as Agent Keeler, again an adequate performance.
Drew Barrymore impressed (she does not usually) as Penny, a character towards whom I felt appropriately sympathetic. Julia Roberts played the role of the sultry agent Loretta and it was nice to see her do something a little different. She fit the stereotype of a sultry spy down to a tee.
I read Chuck Barris's autobiography before I saw this film and enjoyed it very much. I was interested to see how closely it would follow the book. When I heard that Charlie Kaufman, quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best screenwriters around, I was delighted. I loved "Adaptation" and "Being John Malkovich" and was desperate to see more of his work.
This particular film is a little different to the work Kaufman has become known for. It is really a straightforward story (admittedly an unusual one)
told in a pretty much straightforward way. His previous screenplays have involved the use of clever techniques of repetition or cinematic devices whereas "Confessions..." is told chronologically and directly. Much as I love his work I can see why some people might find it pretentious, "Confessions" could not be the target of this accusation. I would say it is the most accessible of his screenplays to date.
In the book, Barris claims that he answered an advert at college which led to him being recruited as a CIA agent. In the film he is approached out of the blue on the street. This is something which does nothing to enhance the credibility of Chuck's claims and, I feel, dramatically alters the story told in the book. Furthermore, the missions chosen to appear in the book are the most typically to do with Hollywood's idea of the CIA and espionage. There is no mention of the claims in the book that some of the missions required Barris to infiltrate human rights groups. This too, I feel, makes Barris look more of a pathetic self-aggrandizing loser - a man who claims to have been recruited to kill spies in Russia sounds more like a figment of the imagination than a man ordered to do undercover political work.
I struggled, too, to find the relevence in a scene close to the end of the film in which Barris has a flashback to his childhood in which it seems that there is some kind of indication that an event involving his mother may explain Chuck's behaviour. This came too late in the film to provide any justification to me - it reminded me of a children's story where the child ends abruptly with "and I woke up and it had all been a dream".
However, this is still an admirable piece of work and I was not disappointed.
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is one of those films which will cause endless debate after you've watched it. Is he telling the truth? I think so but I'm an eternal optimist. It really doesn't matter that this issue is not resolved. This is a highly entertaining film with something for everyone - espionage, a love story, a black, black comedy, a bio-pic, a drama. Even so, it loses nothing from being all these things. In his directorial debut George Clooney has achieved something to be proud of. The film is stunning visually moving from bright colour representing his days as a television host to bleak, sombre scenes as Barris breaks down.
Charlie Kaufman is fast proving himself to be a shining light in Hollywood and here has has shown he is capable of producing a mainstream screenplay as well as the quirky, off-beat films he has become known for. I look forward to many more to come!
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" (2003) is available on DVD (from 6.90 new and used through amazon.co.uk) and on video (at 3.99 Pounds from the same site)
Chuck Barris's autobiography "Confessions of a Dangerous mind is available, again through amazon.co.uk from 4.26 Pounds, new and used.
(Ebury Press, ISBN - 0091889111)
Summary: Surreal saga of screen sensation - superb!