Review: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary with director George Clooney
and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigal; Deleted scenes; Behind
the scenes featurettes; Sam Rockwell screen tests; Gong Show acts;
'The Real Chuck Barris' featurette; Stills gallery.
CHUCK Barris has been dubiously credited with the dumbing
down of US TV, is responsible for creating programmes such
as The Dating Game and The Gong Show,
and claims to have murdered 33 people for the CIA.
His life story forms the basis for George Clooneys directorial
debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, a brave and challenging
movie, which clearly owes a lot to the style of filmmaking of
his mentor, Steven Soderbergh (who serves as executive producer).
Sam Rockwell stars as the energetic Barris, an ambitious go-getter
whose ability to create tacky TV favourites quickly makes him
a leading player in the growing industry; a situation he exploits
to the full with women, including his girlfriend, Penny (Drew
His life takes a turn for the surreal, however, when George Clooneys
shadowy CIA agent, Jim Byrd, recruits him for the organisation
as an assassin, using his shows as the perfect cover to carry
out company work.
Hence, Dating Game contestants find themselves shipped to fabulous
Helsinki and romantic west Berlin for their
dream excursions, so that Barry can perform his covert
missions, during which he meets the likes of Julia Roberts
international operative, Patricia (with whom he starts an affair)
and Rutger Hauers secret agent, Keeler.
But at a time when Cold War paranoia was at its height, Barrys
fragile mental state begins to deteriorate, as friends seem few
and far between and the two worlds threaten to collide and crush
him in the process.
The screenplay for Confessions has been in development hell for
the past five years, having been picked up by the likes of David
Fincher and Curtis Hanson before Clooney rescued it.
And while it may seem like a curious choice for a first-time
out, the director has done a terrific job, turning in a deliriously
enjoyable, tripped out journey through Barris edgy psychology,
backed up by another of Charlie Kaufmans wonderfully offbeat
The Soderbergh influence is never far behind, either, as the
film carries much of the visual style of Clooneys business
partner, cutting to and from the present, and using lighting and
cinematography to impressive effect.
The picture also maintains a terrific balance between the jovial
humour of Barris early exploits and the mounting danger
which permeates the movies darker second half.
This is very much a film buffs treat, containing many a
nod to Clooneys influences, as well as some sly cameos from
previous acting partners; all of which serve to heighten the enjoyment.
Rockwell, too, shines as Barris, a hopelessly likeable entertainment
junkie who exudes charisma whenever on screen. He may, ultimately,
hate himself, but audiences will have fun finding out why.
As for the question of whether Barris really was an assassin,
you never really find out; but then this isnt a film that
is interested in answering such questions. Rather, it is a fascinating,
hip and ultra-enjoyable journey through celebrity excess, which
marks an extremely promising directorial debut.