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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

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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
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by MP Bartley

"Damn, I hate George Clooney."
4 stars

Seriously, think about it fellas, how can you not hate Clooney. For one things the fucker is almost dangerously good looking. Good looking enough to make most women faint and a lot of guys to go "Well, if I had to go gay, I suppose Clooney would do...". He's also a damn good actor. From the loose-tounged charmer of 'Out of Sight' and 'Ocean's 11' to the cynical tough guy of 'Three Kings' to the emotional wreck of 'Solaris', he's much more then just a pretty face. He's also damn charming in real life. And now with 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' he's directed one of the brightest, stylish debuts in a long time. And he takes a great supporting role with equal menace and wit. Like I said, it's easy to hate the fucker.

No just kidding George, I love you really. But I'm not kidding about what I said about 'Confessions...'. The autobiography about 60's TV presenter Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) who never really amounted to much apart from a few ultra-trashy shows like no-talent contest 'The Gong Show' and 'The Dating Game'.

Oh, and he also worked as a free-lance CIA hitman. That is, if Barris is to be believed. His claims have been met with stony refusal by the CIA. But then they would, wouldn't they?

Clooney's film takes no side with either argument, portraying Barris as a certainly strange, possibly delusional, individual but also presenting his undercover operations in a straight-faced manner.

Barris is struggling to make a career in TV and supporting his long-suffering girlfriend, Penny (Drew Barrymore), when he's approached by CIA man, Jim Byrd (Clooney). After initial dis-belief, Barris is convinced that he fits the profile the CIA look out for and is soon trained to kill and sent out on hits, using 'The Dating Show' as his cover. This brings him into contact with other operatives such as Kessler (Rutger Hauer) and Patricia (Julia Roberts).

It's a strange tale, skipping schizophrenically between the relative normality of TV production and the dark seemy world of assaination. One thing is made crystal clear though: Clooney has been doing his homework. It probably helps that one of his most fruitful relationships is with Steven Soderbergh, but Clooney reveals a keen eye for the camera that a hundred veteran hacks juts don't seem to have.

He cleverly balances Chuck's normal life, dousing it in the colourful glare of gaudy TV sets, with the film-noir style that seeps into his CIA missions. Every shot, every set-up has something going on. Whether it be Barris in telephone conversation with a TV executive, the office in the background, Rockwell in the foreground and Barrymore dancing between the two or a conversation between Rockwell and Byrd in shadow apart from their fogged up breath, Clooney seems to be on a constant need to kick the audience in the head with style.

There's an argument that 'Confessions...' is all style and no substance, and there's some weight behind it. Sometimes you wish Clooney would stop dancing with the camera to just relax and film a damn scene. However, with 'Confessions' being the kind of story it is, it's hard to argue that the style doesn't fit in the content. It never attempts to make our minds up about Barris and instead highlights the two extremes that he took his life.
The film plays out like Barris' mind probably plays out, constantly on the turn and constantly exploding its content.

Besides, it's so refreshing to see a first-time director try so many stylistics and pull them off. Some of the scene composition is worth the admission alone. A swimming pool scene, a mission briefing on a tv set, Barris's initial inspiration for 'The Gong Show'...these are moments film students will be slavering over for years. There's many more stand out episodes (the annoying contestants he's stuck with in Germany) but to list them all, would be to spoil them all.

And when you've got a script by the lunatic-genius Charlie Kaufman, what other choice do you have then to keep up with his ideas in terms of style? Barris CIA missions, fanciful or not, simply wouldn't work in any other way than Clooney films them. Just the right side of parody, they fit in perfectly.

Clooney also surrounds himself with a cast that are equally stylish. Barrymore manages to tone down her annoying streak and bring out her sweet aspect, and Clooney's deadpan Agent is both wryly funny and deadly serious. Hauer sparkles in his cameo, while Roberts is surprisingly convincing as the femme fatale.

But Rockwell well and truly rams any doubts about his leading man abilities down the doubters throats. While never making Barris particularly likeable, he certainly grabs the audiences attention and never lets go. Like the film, he's confident and strikes the perfect balance between geek, simmering menace, alluring personality and winning humour. It's the star turn, in a film full of stars, and thankfully doesn't fall into easy cliche or easily-won sympathy.

So is Clooney destined to be the next great thing in directing? Perhaps. For all it's audacity, there's some flaws in 'Confessions'. Although it nimbly navigates the twists between comedy, drama and a crumbling personality, towards the end it doesn't seem sure where it's heading and starts to lose our patience. A biography can always be tricky in terms of pace, relying as it does on facts, and 'Confessions' just isn't clever enough to avoid that pitfall, falling into sluggish interludes occasionally.

And although she's fine in her role, Roberts threatens to over-egg the 'star' quota of the film (as does the admittedly funny cameo by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon). Yes George, we know you have a lot of celebrity friends, but they don't all need to call in at once. 'Ocean's 11' this isn't.

So, not a debut to rival 'Citizen Kane' but certainly a cut above other notable debuts such as 'Duel' and perhaps more in the vein of his friend Soderbergh's 'sex,lies and videotape'. It's debatable as to whether Clooney will really develop as a director, and find his own style and voice as opposed to the comings and goings in 'Confessions'. But that's a debate for later in his career. Because along with a marvellous Rockwell, he's crafted one of the most dynamic and exciting pieces of cinema for a long time. Constantly inventive (the number of visual and story delights is literally ten-fold) and always inventive, 'Confessions' sparkles as a beacon of quality. Jesus George, why do you make me hate you so much?

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originally posted: 03/22/03 03:07:51
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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
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  31-Dec-2002 (R)



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