Clooney praised for accomplished directorial debut

Preview by Jack Foley

 

I don't know, I took this thing called night nurse, I got up at 7 in the morning and walked into a closet and took a leak. It's insane! I had a head cold and now I'm like a heroin addict!

 

GEORGE Clooney's directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, continues to attract widespread acclaim, opening to positive reviews in America and scooping a prestigious prize from the Las Vegas critics’ circle.

The film was awarded best picture at the fifth annual Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards, dubbed the Sierras, announced earlier this year.

Clooney both stars in and directs the film, which co-stars Sam Rockwell, Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore, and is based on the memoirs of game show producer, Chuck Barris, who claims to have led a double life as a CIA assassin.

It was made with the help of Clooney’s long-time friend and producing partner, Steven Soderbergh, who has directed him in Out Of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven and the upcoming Solaris.

The biggest winner at the Sierras, however, was Peter Jackson’s second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers, which took four accolades, including one for the director.

Nicole Kidman was named best actress for her performance as author, Virginia Woolf, in The Hours, while Daniel Day-Lewis was named best actor for his terrific performance in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York.

Critics in Washington, meanwhile, named Sam Mendes’ gangster drama, Road to Perdition, as their best film, while last year’s best actor Oscar winner, Denzel Washington, was named best director - along with Mendes and Spike Jonze.

Jack Nicholson took the best actor honour for About Schmidt, while Julianne Moore was named best actress for Far From Heaven.

Returning to Clooney, however, the star has been riding high critically as well. Confessions opened to largely glowing reviews with E! Online awarding it an A- and declaring it to be ‘snappy, sly and fun’.

Hollywood Reporter hailed ‘George Clooney’s stealthily thought-provoking and brashly entertaining rendering of Chuck Barris' book’, while the New York Daily News awarded it three out of four and declared that it was ‘perversely enjoyable’.

The New York Post, meanwhile, awarded it three and a half out of four, and said that it was ‘hugely entertaining’, while USA Today felt that it was ‘an oddly fascinating depiction of an architect of pop culture’.

Variety declared that it is ‘a powerful and creative film’.

FilmCritic.com declared that ‘it’s a fun ride that sustains itself despite a rather thin premise’, while TV Guide hailed it as ‘tremendously clever’, even though it is ‘ultimately pointless’.

Not everyone was impressed, however, and the Los Angeles Times led the bad notices by declaring it ‘a most irritating film’, while the New York Times felt that it was ‘too cold for its own good’.

POSTED EARLIER: CHARLIE Kaufman must surely be one of the most sought-after screenwriters currently doing the rounds in Hollywood.

Having dazzled audiences with surreal work such as Being John Malkovich, the scribe is now firmly back in the spotlight with his latest two works - the critical favourite, Adaptation, and the upcoming Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which marks the directorial debut of a certain George Clooney.

Based upon the memoir of the same name, Confessions is a darkly comic biography which chronicles the like of The Dating Game/Gong Show creator, Chuck Barris, who claimed that he led a double life as an assassin for the CIA, during which he killed more than 30 people - a claim that has never been proven one way or the other.

Sam Rockwell stars as Barris, while the likes of Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts and Rutger Hauer also contribute cameos, along with the director himself, as a shadowy CIA contact.

But the film, which is due to open in America on December 31, has already drawn considerable acclaim for the director and writer - given its challenging and slightly surreal subject matter.

Clooney, himself, has often been quoted as saying that the Confessions screenplay was the best in Hollywood and that he'd do anything to get it made - even if it meant directing it.

So it is little wonder that the star of films such as Ocean’s Eleven and Out Of Sight has decided to give it a go, under the aegis of the film company he formed with long-time collaborator, Steven Soderbergh. He has even enlisted the support of Barris himself in marketing the film, although the author remains tight-lipped about his time as a killer, stating only that his opinions are contained within his book.

Not that the mystery surrounding Barris’ life has harmed the film - rather, it has helped to raise its profile and critics in America have largely been impressed.

Variety, for instance, referred to it as a ‘powerful and creative film’, while Hollywood Reporter referred to it as ‘stealthily thought-provoking and brashly entertaining’.

Clooney, for his part, is delighted with the reaction, and remains level-headed about his chances of career longevity. Talking to the BBC, he said that if people look at the history of every career ever… ‘there are very few Paul Newmans in the world that get to do this when they're in their seventies’.

"The truth is they will take all the toys away at some point," he added.

The actor is, no doubt, mindful of the fact that audiences stayed away from his previous film, Solaris, while several family members in the entertainment industry have suffered peaks and troughs in their careers.

The movie opens in the UK on March 14, 2003.

US critical reaction continued…

Although many of the critics have yet to publish their reactions in America, notices so far have been generally positive. Aside from Variety and Hollywood Reporter (see above), the likes of Film Journal International have viewed it as a bold and challenging debut, which boasts a terrific lead performance from Rockwell.

It wrote that the film is ‘brilliantly stylised to suggest its time period and the hero's questionable, if dangerous, state of mind and fever-dreamlike recollections’, and adds that ‘Confessions never fails to entertain and intrigue’.

LA Weekly, meanwhile, felt that ‘Rockwell delivers a performance admirable in its hustling sweatiness’, while EFilmcritic.com wrote that ‘Clooney has everything under control here, from the storytelling to the steady hand of a director with an eye of confidence for the cinema’.

The Hollywood Report Card said that Confessions is ‘odd, but awesome!’, adding that ‘George Clooney's directorial debut is simply spectacular. This is one smashing film!’

On a more negative note, Film Hobbit felt that it ‘isn’t as weird as it ought to be’, but Village Voice opined that ‘the movie is, finally, an enigma, not because of Barris's monstrous fibbing, but because it resists being experienced as satire for the sake of its own satirical integrity’.

Further reaction will follow after the film's US release...

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