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Overall Rating
3.68

Awesome: 33.03%
Worth A Look34.86%
Average: 11.93%
Pretty Bad: 7.34%
Total Crap: 12.84%

9 reviews, 55 user ratings


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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Where's the fun?"
3 stars

I loved Chuck Barris' 1984 book, I loved Charlie Kaufman's script when I got my hands on a copy a couple of years ago, so I'm not sure why I sit here with such ambivalent feelings about the movie 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.'

Unlike most of the people surrounding me in the theater, I knew what I was in for: a mock-serious "unauthorized autobiography" purporting to tell the true story of game-show guru Barris, who, according to his book and the movie, was carrying out "directives" (assassinations) for the CIA when not busy producing or hosting The Dating Game or The Gong Show. But the absurdist juice of the book and script seems squeezed out of the movie. What's left is loneliness and despair: The film is unexpectedly and unavoidably depressing.

Barris' fanciful account of his adventures with the CIA may have been his metaphor for never being known for what he really was. A novelist and songwriter, Barris was pilloried left and right for leading America into new depths of depravity with The Gong Show. Barris converted his feelings of being misunderstood -- the dissonance between his public persona and his private life -- into a tall tale of leading a double life. In the movie, Chuck (Sam Rockwell) doesn't seem secretly refined or learned, just a callow hustler who stumbles into the CIA as heedlessly as he stumbles into television. Rockwell, a fine character actor, is given only the externals to play, and his dead-sounding narration doesn't help; reading the book, I heard Barris telling his story in an irrepressible, get-a-load-of-this tone.

George Clooney famously took on the directing chores himself (after several A-list directors couldn't get the project off the ground) because he wanted Kaufman's script delivered without corruption or softening. He has overcorrected and made a glum, almost listless movie, with frequently bleached or tinted photography (by Newton Thomas Sigel) that makes one wish for a normal-looking film. Clooney plays Chuck's CIA contact, the dour Jim Byrd, and there were times I thought Jim Byrd had directed the movie. Clooney does a somber and solid job behind the camera and in front of it, but this film needed a live wire and wicked wit -- someone like Brian De Palma would've done nicely -- and Clooney seems more interested in reproducing the art films of the '70s, particularly the punishing, guilt-ridden cinema of Paul Schrader.

The doubling in Chuck's life goes beyond his careers: Romantically -- or, let's say, sexually -- he has an angel (Drew Barrymore as the sweet, carefree Penny) and a devil (Julia Roberts as the shadowy agent Patricia). Both women are available for sack time with Chuck, and both make demands on him (Penny wants marriage, Patricia wants loyalty). That's about all there is to their characters; though played (respectively) appealingly and seductively by Barrymore and Roberts, the women in what's being called a hip black comedy hark back to the movie stereotypes of fifty years ago. Only Maggie Gyllenhaal, as a Chuck conquest who never loses her expression of boredom even when he's on top of her, rubs against the grain of the film's benign neglect of women, and (guess what?) she's not around for long.

I can't say I "liked" Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, but I want to see it again; it may be the kind of difficult movie that improves for me upon repeat viewings. It speaks of joylessness and self-loathing, qualities that Barris himself, in his little-seen 1980 The Gong Show Movie, used as shtick in his autobiographical account of a put-upon schmuck who runs an out-of-control TV show. Confessions just adds assassination to the mix (in rather clumsily staged scenes) and invites us to stare into the abyss of a lonely man who can't do anything noble or worthy no matter how hard he tries.

This bleak tragedy is being sold as a comedy, and I hope it won't scare confused audiences away from Barris' laugh-out-loud book. As a director, Clooney certainly knows how to bum you out, and he may have a future helming chilly movies about sad, angry men. 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' shouldn't have been one of those movies.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6500&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/30/06 14:32:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/10/13 PAUL SHORTT ENTERTAINING, LIVELY ADAPTATION WITH A GOOD STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
3/13/13 Jeff Wilder Doesn't totally work. But ambitious and entertaining enough to merit a viewing. 4 stars
12/05/08 K. Sear Quirky and witty just as we have come to expect from Kaufman. 4 stars
11/26/08 Leo T alot of fun, screwed up plot...but in the best possible way 5 stars
8/01/08 Monday Morning Tried to watch this twice, only got 20 minutes in twice. Terrible. 2 stars
11/19/07 Erica Munro Worst movir I ever saw!!!! 1 stars
7/24/07 fools♫gold Total romantic bullshit with devilish feel-good music and a damned killer! 5 stars
12/14/06 R.W.Welch Hard to take seriously but a good yarn nonetheless. Rockwell right on. 4 stars
11/14/06 AJ Muller Clooney-the real deal; Rockwell-phenomenally gifted. Immensely entertaining and fun. 5 stars
8/18/05 ES do you like movies that are crazy and don't mean a thing? = then watch this! 1 stars
8/06/05 Zack Great film! 5 stars
5/07/05 Naka WOW! 5 stars
12/17/04 Ken Cenerelli Complex study of a true spy or man with dementia. 4 stars
12/08/04 frosty Seemed to drag. 3 stars
9/24/04 Agent Sands No one saw it, so they all SUCK! One of the most well-crafted movies of recent memory. 5 stars
8/13/04 Rocky A boring and ridiculous lie about a loser I didn't care about. Waste of time. 1 stars
5/13/04 Mickey With A C A must see 5 stars
5/06/04 Ken Rockwell should have got the Best Actor Oscar! 5 stars
4/17/04 Alex Fun and weird. Rockwell is sublime. 5 stars
4/16/04 The More You Know like nic cage's Sonny, if Sonny acted out his own fantasies...clooney directs a lil' better 3 stars
4/15/04 gordon purcell Imaginative direction, always interesting and Rockwell does a great GONG SHOW Barris 4 stars
4/15/04 Charlene Javier Good but not great! 3 stars
2/25/04 Soulis Rockwell as Barris is as good as DeNiro playing Jake Lamotta 5 stars
12/31/03 mercie its full of crappp 1 stars
10/15/03 Jinnvisible Not Bad ... ................................................................Just Average 3 stars
10/07/03 mike this movie kicks ass...seriously cool 5 stars
9/30/03 B P 1 stars
8/10/03 John Bale Dark comedy in candy floss colour, not always on target but a good directorial debut. 4 stars
7/06/03 macaulay culkin II the very most exciting film ever seen 5 stars
6/24/03 Chris It's a great movie 5 stars
5/17/03 George Jung Great directing wasted on a shit script. 3 stars
5/17/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!) Probably THE greatest directorial debut for an actor so far in history! 4 stars
3/23/03 Winthrop J Applesmythe III brilliant. 5 stars
3/16/03 GD Williamson Almost preposterously good. Walked out of the theatre beaming. 5 stars
3/13/03 nick2k very nice...i like the cinematography alot. very noir... 5 stars
2/27/03 Vangela annoyingly smug. clooney has become unbearable. the new "rat pack" is a joke. 2 stars
2/19/03 Frodoshairytoes Great movie - Clooney is a god! 5 stars
2/18/03 Banshee Incredible all around...Rockwell deserves that Silver Bear he won in Berlin this weekend. 5 stars
2/05/03 Andrew Arnold Best movie i've seen since 5 stars
2/04/03 john great 5 stars
2/04/03 jimmybigglesworth Lot's of subtle stuff. I'd like to see it again soon. 4 stars
2/04/03 puckfreak Very entertaining!!! 4 stars
2/03/03 Zeitgeist Great acting...though the characters don't s Chuck Barris is the asshole you hate to love. 4 stars
2/03/03 Angie R A good death scene at the end and nice cinematography...fun rental... 3 stars
2/01/03 dan interesting story, well packaged and great acting 4 stars
1/28/03 ruethewhirl it's a floor wax, and a dessert topping! 5 stars
1/28/03 Jenga Fascinating, really got me thinking about today's entertainment industry. 5 stars
1/28/03 J. F. Murphy Sam Rockwell is great, everyone else sleepwalks . A bad joke of a flick. The pits. 1 stars
1/27/03 Brian Great Cast, Strange Story, Well Presented 5 stars
1/25/03 Jake Could the cast be more annoying? Waste o'time 1 stars
1/23/03 Empress of Misrule Needed more Gene, Gene the Dancing Machine! 4 stars
1/15/03 Ayla Khan funny and bent enough to be interesting 4 stars
1/06/03 Caiphn M&R: Then why rate it, fucktards? 3 stars
1/02/03 Craig Shiner HORRIBLE 1 stars
12/28/02 Matt and Rob Haven't seen it, but it looks good! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  31-Dec-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Jul-2003




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