Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind

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Rating: R

Starring:
Sam Rockwell as Chuck Barris
George Clooney as Jim Byrd
Jennifer Rae Westley as Roommate
Drew Barrymore as Penny
Julia Roberts as Patricia
Rutger Hauer as Keeler
Maggie Gyllenhaal as Debbie
David Julian Hirsh as Freddy ‘Boom Boom’ Cannon
Jerry Weintraub as Larry Goldberg
Frank Fontaine as ABC Executive
Robert John Burke as Instructor Jenks
Brad Pitt as Brad, Bachelor #1
Matt Damon as Matt, Bachelor #2
Chuck Barris as Himself, Present Day
Dick Clark as Himself, Present Day
Jaye P. Morgan as Herself
Gene Patton as Gene Gene the Dancing Machine
Jim Lange as Himself
Murray Langston as Himself/’Unknown Comic’, Present Day

Special Features:

Theatrical trailers

Feature commentary with Director George Clooney and Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel

Deleted Scenes with commentary

Six Behind the Scene Vignettes

Sam Rockwell Screen Test

“Gong Show” Acts

The Real Chuck Barris Documentary

Still Gallery

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French Language Track
Running Time: 114 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film is based on the “unauthorized” autobiography of game show creator Chuck Barris.

Barris tells the story of his life in this film. However, fact and fiction blur as the details emerge. Brought up in a strange household, Chuck has a hard time with relationships. However, he puts that behind him when he decides he wants a career in television. Barris begins a quest to get a TV show made. He starts working at NBC and slowly works his way up the managerial chain. He pitches “The Dating Game” to ABC, but they turn it down.

Just when Barris begins to get discouraged, Jim Byrd enters his life. Jim claims to be a representative from the CIA. They have chosen Barris as a candidate to become an assassin for the US Government. With nothing better to do, Barris decides to join up. Shortly after his first hit, ABC contacts him again. They want to start airing The Dating Game.

Chuck’s fortunes turn around and he begins making new shows such as The Gong Show. However, Byrd and the CIA still send him on missions for them. Chuck must not only balance his growing TV career and his life as a CIA assassin, but he must also deal with his growing relationship with his girlfriend, Penny.

When his TV shows start dropping in the ratings, he faces their cancellation. Chuck also finds himself in over his head when a CIA mole threatens to kill him and his fellow spies. But how much of his story is real and how much is the product of a mind in mental breakdown? Ultimately, it’s up for the audience to decide.

“Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind” is rated R for language, sexual content and violence.

The Movie:
I was pretty eager to see Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind. I missed it in theaters and was looking forward to seeing it on DVD. However, after viewing the final product, I wasn’t terribly impressed. I found the film to be a bit of a mixed bag. It is well acted and directed, but the story never got me that interested. It fact, it got progressively more confusing towards the end of the film.

The film is about game show creator Chuck Barris. His life isn’t terribly interesting except for the fact that in his autobiography he claimed that he was an assassin for the CIA who killed 33 men. It’s pretty obvious that Barris is making everything up. The movie is set up so that audiences can walk away and make up their minds about him on their own, but I think it’s pretty apparent that the guy is full of crap. The stories seem to be the product of a mind in total breakdown. Other than moments of intriguing imaginary espionage, there’s nothing special about Barris’ tale. He was a bit if a jerk that was screwed up by his parents and then went into meltdown. There’s nothing in this film that makes him honorable, noteworthy, or even infamous. You pretty much see his life nosedive without redemption. Watching this movie is a lot like listening to a child who’s telling you a boldfaced lie. You can either take it as amusing fiction or get annoyed and leave. I got annoyed.

That being said, I think it’s an otherwise well made movie. This is George Clooney’s first shot at directing and I think he did a great job. The movie looks very slick and every scene is beautifully shot. He uses lots of camera tricks to cool effect. Scenes will literally change in front of the camera as it moves. It’s quite interesting and has to be seen to be believed. There are also interesting gimmicks with color to make the scenes feel like they are from different eras.

Clooney also uses his Hollywood clout to bring in a number of friends for cameo roles. Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and other stars pop in here and there for big laughs. However, the real star of the film is Sam Rockwell. I’ve long thought that Rockwell is one of the best actors working today, and this role reinforces that. He completely immerses himself in the role of Barris and his transition from average joe to assassin to Gong Show host to man on the edge is seamless. Very few people besides Rockwell could have pulled this off, and he does so wonderfully. (Clooney would, however, be hard pressed to include more butt shots of Rockwell in the film. It got a bit excessive.) Drew Barrymore supports him in the role. She plays Penny, Barris’ love that is also a bit of a flake. Barrymore fits the role well. Rutger Hauer even makes an appearance as another memorable assassin.

The music and scenery are also noteworthy. Overall, it’s a great production. The humor in the film is what keeps it from totally sinking. There are some genuinely funny moments that had me laughing out loud. After all, any movie that recreates the Gong Show has to have some comedy in it, right? However, I’d like to see Clooney and the rest of the cast and crew work on other material besides this.

The Extras:
There are quite a few extras on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Feature commentary with Director George Clooney and Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel – As this commentary starts out, both Clooney and Sigel talk very quietly as if they’re trying to carry on a conversation in a crowded theater. It’s very difficult to hear them as they mumble. However, they seem to get more comfortable with it over time and they begin to speak up. Clooney provides most of the interesting comments while Sigil seems more like the sidekick. They talk about the technical details of making the film, especially the elaborate camera tricks they did. Clooney repeatedly talks about the actors running like a “bat out of hell” to get back into positions. They also give a little more insight into the story. It’s a decent commentary, but not a great one.

Deleted Scenes with commentary – There are about 11 deleted scenes included in the extras. They range from the unimportant to substantial cuts. One scene features Fred Savage as a bellboy being intimidated by a naked Sam Rockwell. Another scene goes into great detail about Barris’ first assassination. It is much gorier and longer than the one in the film. Another deleted scene features Penny trying to commit suicide. Overall, if you’re into the movie then the deleted scenes are worth checking out.

Six Behind the Scene Vignettes – This is a rather substantial behind the scenes look at the film. The documentary is broken up into 6 or so short parts that you can watch individually or all together. They cover the unique camera tricks, Clooney’s directing style, Sam Rockwell’s performance, the real Chuck Barris, the casting, and more. Even if you’re not into the movie, this behind the scenes look is still quite interesting. It certainly looks like everyone had a lot of fun on the set.

Sam Rockwell Screen Test – Apparently a number of big name actors tried out for the part, but Sam Rockwell was the one that eventually won out. These are his screen tests for the role. One shows him doing a scene with Clooney. Another shows him doing a monologue. The most entertaining, though, is him acting as Barris in the Gong Show. At one point he brings Clooney himself onto the mock stage and has some fun with him. This is the one to view if you check out this feature.

“Gong Show” Acts – They apparently filmed a number of Gong Show acts for the movie which were never used. One has a man on stilts playing a saxophone. Another has a guy playing a nose flute. Another has a dwarf woman pretending to be a baby. They’re all pretty bad, but I guess that’s what they’re supposed to be.

The Real Chuck Barris Documentary – I was hoping this would be a real biography on Chuck Barris, but it is not. It’s mainly footage of his friends and co-workers talking about him. Some of these scenes were in the movie, but they’re all included here. You can see Clooney interviewing Dick Clark, the Unknown Comic, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine, and even Barris himself. However, it doesn’t reveal much at all about the man himself.

The Bottom Line:
This film will probably appeal more to those into independent films than anyone else. This isn’t really a movie for mainstream audiences. Fans of Rockwell, Barrymore, Roberts, The Gong Show, or Clooney will enjoy it. Everyone else will want to approach with caution.

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