More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

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

9 reviews, 55 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Vast of Night, The by Peter Sobczynski

High Note, The by Peter Sobczynski

Taking of Tiger Mountain, The by Jay Seaver

Trip to Greece, The by Peter Sobczynski

Night God by Jay Seaver

Alice (2019) by Jay Seaver

On a Magical Night (Chambre 212) by Jay Seaver

Driveways by Jay Seaver

Free Country by Jay Seaver

Deluge by Jay Seaver

subscribe to this feed

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Clooney proves he has learned from the best."
5 stars

Here’s a good rule of thumb for a bio-pic: Even if the story had been made up, it would still make a great movie. True or not, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” is great entertainment. Most bio-pics go the safe cradle-to-the-grave route, but since the subject of “Confessions”—Gong Show host/creator Chuck Barris—still lives, it has no choice but to lead up to where he resides today. Since Barris essentially led two lives, the movie tells two stories, but fuses them ingeniously into a cohesive whole. Credit screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (“Adaptation”) and first-time director George Clooney for taking the bio-pic genre and breathing new life into it. “Confessions” is that rare bio-pic that knows how much depth exists in its subject.

His life makes for great storytelling. The movie sets us up for a gritty tale of sexual addiction, not unlike Paul Schrader’s “Auto Focus,” which told the story of another television icon, “Hogan’s Heroes”’ Bob Crane. With Sam Rockwell as Chuck Barris giving us a voice-over, the movie flashbacks from him standing naked in a room staring at the TV to everything that led him to that strange place. That may sound like a bio-pic cliché, and it is (maybe not the naked part), but the way in which his life has been executed for the big screen is anything but.

So, what’s with Barris anyway? He came to New York in the ‘50s searching for a job in television. He has ideas, but he fails at selling them. He also has a sex addiction, which causes him to be less focused. He gets into bar fights and fails to make a name for himself. This catches the eye of a CIA recruiter, Jim Byrd (Clooney). Byrd recruits Barris and trains him to be a killer on his time off from working in television. When the two lives meet, “Confessions” turns into one hilariously dark comedy.

Barris also has Penny (Drew Barrymore) to deal with, who is sort-of his girlfriend, although they both believe in seeing other people. She only knows his life as a game show creator, and once he sells his first idea, “The Dating Game,” the relationship between the two grows closer, yet more distant. She moves to San Francisco. He travels to Europe, escorting “Dating Game” winners, while carrying out assassinations for the CIA.

Is this true? Well, Barris seems to think so. He wrote of it in his autobiography published in 1982 and, as I said before, if it’s not, it still makes for great storytelling. Clooney and Kaufman, to their credit, treat it as such. “Confessions” never shift gears into trapping us into a whirlwind of mind games. It never has us scratching our heads thinking, “Is this real or not?” I have never read up on Chuck Barris, nor did I read up on this movie before seeing it. I knew very little walking in, just bits and pieces. I suspect many others will walk in the same way, and maybe the movie could have used a coda at the end telling us that what we have just seen may or may not have happened. If Barris claims it as truth but the CIA denies it, whom do we believe?

Like “Auto Focus,” the story behind “Confessions” when put into context seems rather timely. “Auto Focus” tapped into the rise of home video technology and how we have reduced it to just another outlet for pornography, as has happened with the Internet. Barris’ story, or rather his version of it, seems rife with conventional pop culture allusions. Barris may have been the founder of reality TV. What is “The Dating Game” but a tacky prototype of “The Bachelor” “The Bachelorette” or “Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire?” What is “The Gong Show” but a foreshadowing of “American Idol”? And isn’t it interesting how another man’s life—a man who may have written a better story for himself than one he actually lived—is the subject of a major Hollywood movie, the makers of which seem only interested in the stranger-than-fiction aspect? Is “Confessions” anything more than a glorified dramatization of “E! True Hollywood Story”?

I like to think so, actually, but who out there doesn’t find these shows ultimately fascinating and addictive? Clooney knows Barris’ story comes off as convoluted, which may have been why he chose a bigger-than-life noir approach to the CIA material. Clooney makes all the right choices as a director and has clearly learned from the best (The Coens, Steven Soderberg, David O. Russell). Everything in “Confessions” looks appropriately fake, but the sincerity behind the material is anything but. The movie’s most sublime moment occurs in a montage to the tune of Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling In Love,” in which Barris’ life story, when bared down to this bite-size chunk, is reduced to one of the most bizarre music videos you will ever see.

Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (“Three Kings”) gives “Confessions” two looks, one for each part of Barris’ life. Barris’ life as a game show creator/host has a beautiful pastel color scheme, giving us the feeling of an altered reality as well as the sheer tackiness of its time. Barris’ other life has a classic film noir look, everything hidden in shadows and occasionally with black and white backgrounds. Not too many movies can command your attention these days with their sheer visual finesse, but the fact that “Confessions” looks absolutely gorgeous and unique is merely icing on the cake.

Of course, it goes without saying that the performances are also key to the movie’s tone and approach. As Barris, the relatively unknown Sam Rockwell (the villain in “Charlie’s Angels”) is a perfect choice, not because of how he transcends all these layers behind Barris’ odd psyche, but because he is an unknown. Somehow, that makes it all seem less showy to me. Barrymore gives one of her best performances as the free-love flowing Penny. Julia Roberts also shows up in the movie in a supporting role as a CIA assassin working alongside Barris, but he doesn’t know whether or not to trust her. Roberts also keeps us guessing.

Peter Bogdonavich’s “The Cat’s Meow”—which told the story of a possible murder on board a yacht owned by William Randolph Hearst—failed because it did not inform the viewer that other versions of its story had been written. Its approach was too direct. “Confessions” succeeds because it has been approached as entertainment, and truly great, inspired entertainment at that. Because the movie ends with a laugh, it takes on the guise of self-lampoon. Barris may never have achieved greatness with his accomplishments, but he sure knew how to spin a good yarn when he wanted to. You can laugh and shake your head in disbelief, but one thing’s for certain: Clooney and Kaufman spin this yarn for all its worth, and in this day and age it’s worth quite a lot. If only Andy Kaufman received the same treatment with his bio-pic…

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/26/03 16:51:52
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

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 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
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  31-Dec-2002 (R)



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast