Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Every time you express the view that imagination is dead in Hollywood, Charlie Kaufman's name comes up. His screenplays (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) are quirky and unexpected. Some might call them comedies sans frontiers.

He treats time as irrelevant. The concept of chronological order is dismissed as bourgeois. Fact and fiction are welded so that the genre of the biopic has no meaning in the canons of joined-up cinema. What is real and what might have been real are two sides of the same joke.

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His attitude towards convention is to wiggle its ears and laugh in its face. Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind is based on the story of Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) who was such a loser he couldn't even make it with girls during those bitter sweet years when hormones fought civil wars in your pants and failure to unhook a bra strap in less time than it takes to say, "Of course, I love you," was truly humiliating.

Chuck found Penny (Drew Barrymore) eventually, after enduring bad sex with her flatmate. Penny has a sense of humour and is a bit off the wall, which explains a lot. She's such a positive person that when the Summer of Love came along, she leapt at it like a salmon and announced, "I'm a hippie now."

Chuck blagged his way onto TV and ended up producing The Dating Game and The Gong Show, archaic examples of cringeworthy family entertainment. Before fame destroyed his objectivity, he was approached by a man in a suit (George Clooney), who looked like Dick Tracy with a 'tache stolen from Tom Selleck's make-up drawer, and recruited into a mysterious government agency, possibly the CIA, as a hitman. He was sent abroad, where he killed strangers with greasy accents and met a femme fatale (Julia Roberts), who taught him a thing or two about the tricks of the spy game.

This is Clooney's debut as a director and he does a terrific job. He keeps his cameras close, which adds a feeling of intimacy to the chaos that is Chuck's life. He understands irony and black humour, influenced perhaps by David O Russell's post Gulf War masterpiece, Three Kings, in which he starred.

His image as the suave seducer from ER and even suaver con man criminal from Ocean's Eleven must be laid to rest, in favour of a filmmaker with a surreal sense of fun, who embraces risk and dares to break the mould. His performance, as the shadowy agent, is on a par with his work in O Brother, Where Art Thou? - so un-George.

There is one flaw, however. Chuck cannot disguise his flair for inappropriate behaviour. He is not so much a patsy as a deeply unattractive man.

Reviewed on: 13 Mar 2003
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A game show host becomes a CIA hitman in his spare time.
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Director: George Clooney

Writer: Charlie Kaufman, based on the book by Chuck Barris

Starring: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Year: 2002

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US/Canada/Germany

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