Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

A Film Review By Michael Haley

Rating:R for language, strong sexuality, violence, nudity, and adult situations.
Starring: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhall.
Directed By:George Clooney

Final Grade:
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If Chuck Barris’s life really is half as insane as the film (or his autobiography) makes it out to be, than I will fear every game show host that has or will ever appear on television. Makes me kind of wonder what Bob Barker is really thinking every time he says, “Come on down!!” Corny attempts at humor aside, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is one of the best surprises in awhile, and if George Clooney can consistently put out work like this, makes him a force to be reckoned in the directorial field.

Sam Rockwell portrays the real Chuck Barris, a man who doesn’t really have anything in particular working for him, nothing terribly interesting about him other than the fact that he wants to be famous. Okay, I guess that’s not even that interesting either. He sleeps with everyone he lays eyes on (even though they sometimes turn their gaze away from him) while dreaming up ideas for game shows. After several unsuccessful pitches, several of his game shows become huge hits such as The Gong Show, The Dating Game, and so forth. Critics label his shows as trash and proclaim them to be the death of America, and Barris took all of his criticism to heart. These shows are eventually cancelled and he laments, as would be expected. Usual rags to riches story, right? Not by a long shot.

For Barris enthusiasts, that much could be gathered by reading T.V. Guide. What his autobiography and film reveal is that he was also a secret agent for the CIA, and that his trips he would take with contestants of The Dating Game were a cover to assassinate various people. No one would suspect the host of a little old innocent game show, now would they? At the end of the story he claims to have killed thirty three people on these “dates” but we can never really be too sure…not only does it seem implausible, but his need to justify his existence or purpose for such trashy shows (as the critics put them) is overwhelming, and if he was being a good old patriot and doing his duty, than doesn’t that give his shows some kind of purpose for the good of the nation? And if he so, isn’t he being patriotic and doing his job for America, and we should respect him? The film leans towards one side but doesn’t make the final call either way.

One could never tell from looking at old episodes of Roseanne, but George Clooney’s directorial debut is a stellar knockout. There is constantly something new, original, or fresh on the screen, and not for one moment are we given a shot that is boring. Some films have awesome images and no plot, others are the opposite, but Clooney pulls off a great juggling act by producing smart film that’s visually arresting. The game show bits are lush and bright, with the sixties colors bursting off the screen, whereas the CIA scenes are appropriately cold, distant, foreboding. Although at times it seems that Clooney’s directorial style and choice of lens resembles that of producing buddy Steven Soderbergh (the look of Traffic and finds its way into some of Clooney’s shots), but rather than just steal them, he takes it and builds upon them in new and interesting ways. The art decoration, the sets, the cinematography…it’s all lush and excellent, and works to draw you into this crazy yet oddly familiar world.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is many other things too…wonderfully acted, intelligent, stylish as hell, bold, hilarious, original, and the list goes on. Along with Frida, this is another film that simply needs to be viewed and felt to be done justice. Yeah you could go and throw money away at something like Just Married, but with this one, you’ll not only be entertained but see a real film as well, which do not necessarily have to entertain.

Disclaimer—I didn’t think about it that much, but there are numerous random shots of Sam Rockwell’s behind in this movie, and after Solaris it’s clear that Clooney has a penchant for such nudity in his films. So if you’re uptight in such frivolous areas then stay away; the rest of us will enjoy a hell of a film.

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