Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
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68 of 79 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon December 22, 2002
Close on the heels of his ADAPTATION, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman scores again with CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, based on the (fictional?) autobiography of the same title by Chuck Barris. It's also George Clooney's initial outing as Director.
At the very beginning when the audience sees a bearded and naked Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) standing as if in a trance while a frumpy housekeeper vacuums around him, the viewer suspects that the film will be something special, outrageous, or both. This is the starting point for an extended flashback as Barris recalls his young adulthood, when it seemed everybody but him was having sex, to his successful career as a TV game show creator and low-brow polluter of the American airwaves ("The Dating Game", "The Newlywed Game", "The Gong Show"). Pretty standard stuff except that along the way Barris is seduced by a penchant for violence into a double life as a CIA contract killer, and the schizophrenia brought on by his double life almost proves his undoing.
Rockwell is superb in the leading role, as is Director Clooney, who plays his square-jawed, no-nonsense CIA recruiter and control, Jim Byrd. (Byrd to Barris: "Listen, you're thirty-two years old and you've achieved nothing. Jesus Christ was dead and alive again by thirty-three. Better get cracking.") Drew Barrymore does a swell job as Penny, the on-again, off-again love of Chuck's life, but she's deliciously upstaged by Julia Roberts in a new sort of character for her, that of the seductive and deadly femme fatale spy, Patricia. ("Prove how much you love me, baby. Kill for me. Then I'm all yours".) Brad Pitt and Matt Damon have hilarious two-second cameos on stools. And there's one scene where a Federal official lectures The Dating Game contestants on the dire repercussions of introducing risqué material into their game show appearance that alone is worth the price of admission. I don't know who that actor was, but he deserves an Oscar for a one-minute speech.
This is a movie that perhaps has to be seen twice to be fully appreciated for the deft and clever use of camera perspective, scene and timing changes, and almost-overexposed color, all of which keeps the audience on its toes wondering what's coming next. And the Big Question: who's The Mole?
This is one of the best dark comedies that I've seen in a long while. It's one of the must-see films of 2002/2003. Bravo, bravo!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2003
George Clooney is a fine actor and he has done excellent work in the past. However, when I heard that Clooney was going to direct, I was a bit apprehensive. There are actors who have done great work as directors (Orson Welles, Robert Redford, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood), yet George Clooney did not strike me as one who would excel as a director. Then along comes Confessions of a Dangerous Mind to convince me otherwise. Working from a screenplay by the always-great Charlie Kaufman (scribe of Adaptation), Clooney has constructed a fabulous film that succeeds in just about every way.
Clooney has the benefit of an intriguing story, based on the book by Gong Show host Chuck Barris, a great script and a fantastic cast. Sam Rockwell is a fine actor, and Confessions is probably his best work to date. Rockwell carries the movie; A daunting task, but he succeeds admirably. He brings humanity and sadness to his character and even makes him somewhat sympathetic. Hopefully he will be getting better and better parts after this one. Drew Barrymore is great as Barris' sort-of girlfriend, Clooney himself appears as the CIA recruiter who's interested in Barris, and Julia Roberts shows up as a fellow operative. George Clooney has learned much from his friend Steven Soderbergh and brings an astute sense of visual style to the film. Clooney really deserves credit for an exceptional filmmaking job.
Whether or not Barris' story is true is really not of concern to me. Even if it's all fiction, then it made for a remarkable story anyway. It will give viewers something to debate after seeing the film. The real Chuck Barris shows up for a cameo at the end, in a very touching and sad moment. Indeed there's a strong element of sadness to the story as Barris realizes what he has been and what he could have been. "I'm doomed to hell" he writes. And not just for being the one responsible for The Gong Show.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was overlooked at the box office when it opened back in January. Perhaps it was the fact that George Clooney and Julia Roberts were only in small parts that kept people away. Or perhaps people were scared away by Charlie Kaufman's name, knowing it would likely be "weird". It's a shame though, because those people missed one of most unique and enjoyable films of the year. It's perhaps not for all tastes, but for those who enjoy quirky films beyond the usual Hollywood dreck, Confessions will be highly enjoyable.
Hopefully with the upcoming DVD release, this wonderful film will find its audience and will be appreciated for years to come.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 3, 2007
A movie that combines "Ocean's Eleven" stars and a core storyline from "A Beautiful Mind" with the TV progenitor of Simon Cowell? It seems unlikely, as does much of the book this film's script was based on, yet it all comes together well in a very weird, but hilarious piece of entertainment.

Sam Rockwell is dead-on as game show producer Chuck Barris, who created not only two staples of American television mediocrity (The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game), but also the "American Idol" of the 1970s -- The Gong Show. The only differences between Barris' production and today's "Idol" are that Barris featured ONLY bad wanna-bes, so there were no recording contracts and such offered, and his judges were a lot funnier, as was he. Of course, viewers were different back then, too, in that they didn't know what to make of a show on which struggling "talent" were verbally abused. Today, that's half of Idol's viewership. In any case, Rockwell's portrayal of him is perfect.

Equally good are Drew Barrymore, as Barris' on-again, off-again, on-again love interest, George Clooney as Barris' supposed CIA handler, and fellow assassin Julia Roberts. In fact, Barrymore is considerably better here than in most of her roles. The appearance of Rutger Hauer also made me laugh, especially given the tough guy roles he used to play. And cameos by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon are priceless.

As for the "A Beautiful Mind" reference, Barris' assertion that he served as a CIA assassin during that period is so absurd that it immediately made me think of the Russell Crowe/Jennifer Connelly film's delusional spy sequences. It's also fitting considering that the central message of Barris' book is that it is immensely painful to have a brilliant mind in early life, yet end up wasting it on developing cheap fodder like "The Dating Game." (Pretty much the story of American televison in general.)

Don't get me wrong -- this is NOT a movie classic. Still, Barris is such a weird yet bright man that the film is fun throughout. And its depiction of this period of TV-making in America is funny, believable, and all too insightful as to how we ended up with the flood of "reality" and game shows that pollute our TV screens today. The film blames Barris, because he did himself, but it's the networks that pushed and paid for this dreck, and still do.

If you have an absurdist bone in your body, you'll at least get several laughs out of this. Enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The sixties and seventies were turbulent times in America: Cuba had fallen to a communist revolution, a Hungarian rebellion had been crushed by Soviet tanks, and the Cold War was at its coldest. The CIA made a desperate gambit, eager to secure a master assassin who would fly under the radar and raise absolutely no suspicicion.

They decided to recruit game-show host Chuck Barris as their Ice Man.

George Clooney marks his directorial debut with a subtle, fast-paced, fancifully shot and whimsically paced bang. Sam Rockwell does a masterful job in portraying reluctant CIA killer and grandmaster game-show host Chuck Barris.

You remember Chuck Barris, right? High-toned, high spirited, pedal-to-the-metal host and writer and developer and uber-brain behind some of American television's most mind-rotting game shows, including "The Newlywed Game", "The Dating Game", and "The Gong Show". Oh, and according to his autobiographical "unauthorized" biography, a CIA assassin.

CIA Assassin?

Absolutely. According to Barris, while he was concocting runaway hits like "The Gong Show", he was serving his country and working with the fight to make the World Safe for Democracy by offing Russian agents and KGB lackeys. "Dating Game" super-sexy trip to West Berlin? Nonsense---it just provided Special Agent Chuck with the opportunity to play a Cold War version of 'whack-a-mole', literally and figuratively.

Clooney has solid directorial chops, and moves the film rapidly from the playful realm of whimsy, where characters are illuminated and shaded by filters and too much lighting, to the cold, grey world of Barris's nightmarish reality, where, as an aging, isolated CIA spook and killer, he's being stalked by operatives, assassins and thugs. Clooney is good in using music, set design, and dialogue to steer the film from the realm of comedy to stark terror in a matter of minutes.

In addition to being masterfully shot and scripted (with cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel, who did the camera work for both X-men movies and "Apt Pupil"), Clooney is adept in moving what begins as a nearly slapstick comedy into a taut, horrific little spy-game where Barris literally fights for his life.

"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is studded with first-rate actors and first-rate acting: Drew Barrymore plays Penny, Chuck's starry-eyed and long-suffering lover; Julia Roberts shines as mysteriuos secret agent Patricia, who reinvents the term "Man-eater"; Rutger Hauer brings the lustre of "Blade Runner" to his role as a West German assassin and spymaster; and Matt Damon and Brad Pitt are note-perfect as spurned bachelors on "The Dating Game". And best of all, the 'mockumentary' feel of "Confessions" is accentuated by candid appearances from Dick Clarke, Jaye P. Morgan, and even Chuck Barris himself, who provides a grim coda to the festivities.

Clooney is also superb as Barris's CIA handler, and serves as a perfect accent to this psychedelic Cold War chess game. And make no mistake: "Confessions" is hysterically funny, even as this most dangerous game becomes increasingly serious and deadly.

"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is a stellar, wickedly and consumptively absorbing debut by Clooney, and it's a fine tale well told. True story? Shaggy dog story? With this much style, who cares? Pop this on the DVD hopper, watch out for that guy down the hall in the trenchcoat, and enjoy.

JSG
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2003
Supposedly a `true story' the film is based on the `unauthorised autobiography of Chuck Barris' one of whom you have probably never heard of, but have watched his game-show concepts many a time.
The film begins with a middle-aged man who isolates himself in a flat away from the public, ex-girlfriend (Drew Barrymore) and moreover reality. Sitting at his typewriter, Chuck (Sam Rockwell) narrates how pathetic life is in general and the common thoughts of young hopefuls who dream that in ten years time they will be highly successful, but by the age of sixty, retrospectively analysing where it all went wrong. Five short minutes into the film I have already placed the film into the Drama bucket, until suddenly the camera cuts to a real-life commentary from some random woman, who obviously was acquainted to Chuck. This is shortly followed by commentary from the man himself Chuck Barris, looking like your average elderly man living next door. Somewhat bizarre, you have to give Mr. Clooney benefit of the doubt, this being his directorial debut you can hardly expect him to weigh up to the likes of Scorsese and Peter Jackson, and so I will turn a blind eye. I mean surely it cannot get any worse...
The plot lightens up later, with Chuck blagging his first job at NBC as a tourist guide, and I must say this is the first stage in the film that I become impressed with Mr Clooney. In one continuous shot, the camera centres on Chuck who is grouped with a bunch of tourists being shown around the works of NBC by a girl guide, with the camera swiftly moving onto Chuck now being a tour guide himself, showing a couple around the NBC building. The shot is worked wonderfully well and is clearly emphasised through the smooth movement between the girl guide and Chuck perfected by the scripted NBC dialogue of what both guides are saying simultaneously.
Chuck has bigger ambitions and in hope of sleeping with a woman at work applies for a promotion at NBC. Moving on from here, we see Chuck flying out with reality TV- Show concepts left, right and centre, all of which attract little attention from any TV producers. Chuck now laid off from work, with no one interested in his ideas for a television breakthrough is intruded by Jim Byrd (George Clooney) a CIA specialist in search of his next employee. Agent Byrd having studied Chuck all his life insists that he fits the profile to be a very good killer for the CIA and persuades Chuck to go to a special training camp, where he will learn the necessities of the CIA.
Being involved with the CIA is obviously top-secret classified information and so we have the joy of watching Chuck ducking and diving around in order to prevent anyone, especially his girlfriend, sussing him out. This becomes all the more cumbersome when an ABC executive finally decide that they want to run his show `The Dating Game.' With the intention of quitting the CIA to solely concentrate on his TV show, Chuck is confronted by Byrd who delivers an irresistible proposition. The CIA will fund couples on `The Dating Game' to holidays in Eastern Europe and whilst the fortunate couple are having a romantic time away; Chuck will be on his latest mission plugging European Communists.
The film then takes you on board a roller-coaster ride, bringing in the likes of Julia Roberts, lots of killings, terrible talentless people, freakish flashbacks of Chuck in his youth, two quick famous cameo friends of Clooney (I won't spoil it for you), and a clever little twist at the end.
From an overall perspective of the film, it's really not as bad as the first five minutes would suggest. Clooney experiments with the camera and does so quite well, Sam Rockwell, unknown to me before this film, is impressive and Drew Barrymore shows she is more than just a pretty face.
In time, `Confessions Of Dangerous Mind' could well be regarded as a masterpiece.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2003
Director George Clooney's "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is an interesting film, a somewhat melancholy take on the life of "Gong Show" creator Chuck Barris. Though the project is ambitious for a first-time director, the acting is good and the film's visual look is great, the tone of it struck me as uneven. It's not the fun, zany trip that I was expecting, with its opening echoing more "Sid and Nancy" than "The Dating Game." Given the subject of the film is Barris and his outrageous claim that he worked as a CIA assassin, should it be so dark and solemn?
Sam Rockwell's a talented actor. His work in film, verging from his wacky role in "Box of Moonlight" to his dancing-villain turn in "Charlie's Angels" of all things, is consistently different and fun to watch. His take on Barris, who meanders somewhere between goofy and emotionally damaged, is compelling yet still doesn't make Barris an accessible person to the audience.
The film suffers the same flaw as "Man on the Moon," which gave us two hours on the life of Andy Kaufman without letting us much find out about what motivated him. Though Barris is central to every scene, you can neither laugh at him nor particularly care about him. What drives him to get into television? Why would he make up the bit about the CIA assassin, if he did? If he did live as one, why do all the scenes involving his CIA work seem to scream 'plot device'?
One key into Barris' psyche is revealed toward the film's end, and it's a twisted, weird bit about his relationship with his mother. If it's true, and we are hinted that it might be, the revelation doesn't hit home the way it should because we know that half of Barris is telling us is a lie, so the audience isn't quite clear on what to believe.
Drew Barrymore's portrayal of Penny, Barris' chief girlfriend, is a delight. She's bright, always on and quirky, but the movie's tones are not always like that. I thought she was better than her material. And Julia Roberts and George Clooney provide little more than cameos, and their characters are so enigmatic, that plot so trivial, that they come off as one-note. (Still, Roberts does get the biggest laugh in the film.)
All in all, I was disappointed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) spent every conscious moment since puberty chasing women -with little success. Then he discovered the newly emerging world of television. This was something he could do. He could put on a show. He understood the public's tastes. And there were available women galore. Barris started out giving tours at a television network, and worked upward from there. He met a free-spirited woman named Penny (Drew Barrymore), whom he later married, through a one-night stand with her roommate. Penny believed in Chuck, encouraged him, and gave him all the independence he could want. Chuck rose to prominence at ABC when his "Newlywed Game" became a hit. He went on to produce "The Dating Game" and "The Gong Show", in which he also starred. But Chuck Barris led a double life. Shortly after his success with "The Dating Game", he claims to have been approached by a recruiter for the CIA (George Clooney), who told Chuck that he perfectly fit the "profile" to do contract work for the agency and that his country needed him in its battle against Communism. Chuck agreed to the job. And the CIA trained him as an assassin who would use the cover of escorting "The Dating Game"'s winning couples around the world to carry out his murderous assignments. Or was it all a fiction from the mind of this consummate entertainer?
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is based on Chuck Barris' autobiography of the same name, public records, and hundreds of hours of taped interviews. The film was directed by George Clooney in what is one of the most impressive directorial debuts ever by an actor. Charlie Kaufman, who has made a name for himself writing non-linear films, wrote the screenplay. The constraints imposed by the mostly linear nature of this film bring out the best of Kaufman's abilities, though, and result in his best screenplay yet. Chuck Barris' game shows were precursors to modern reality television and "trash tv". Sam Rockwell brilliantly conveys Barris' simultaneous inferiority and superiority complexes. He made me wonder if some of today's trash tv moguls don't suffer from the same neuroses. George Clooney employs a combination of traditional and heavily stylized techniques to bring Chuck Barris' story to the screen. The film's style gets heavy-handed as the story nears its end, but this seems an appropriate expression of Barris' eventual unraveling. The question that "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" elicits but never answers is: Is it true? Was Chuck Barris really an assassin for the CIA? The idea that we cannot know how much of this story is true and how much is fiction is probably part of the film's appeal. I am inclined to think that Barris' claims are a result of his peculiar combination of intense self-importance and acute self-loathing. But the man always knew how to entertain, and George Clooney has brought Chuck Barris' strange story to the screen with skill and ingenuity.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2003
I have to admit, I didn't have high hopes for George Clooney's directorial debut. A film based on the psychotic "autobiography" of washed up television game show producer extrodinaire Chuck Barris, revealing his secret life as a CIA contract agent seemed to be a recipe for disaster. Leave it to Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), sans make-believe twin brother Donald, to create a script so rich with dementia that even Barris himself would be proud. Clooney takes the script and runs with it, and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (who I insist must be an alias of Soderberg's, considering their stylistic likeness) and Sam Rockwell's Chuck Barris keep up the pace (and utter mahem) quite nicely.
As with all of Kaufman's other screenplays, the audience experiences the rollercoaster of the lead character's psychosis, which Kaufman is truly the master of representing in words. Until Confessions, I don't feel as though any director or cinematographer has truly captured the visuals of Kaufman's mental madness more effectively than Clooney and Sigel. I always thought Terry Gilliam and Kaufman would be a perfect pair considering their similar tendencies toward artist psychosis. Quite possibly because of this, I noticed several similarities between Confessions and Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
This is not a film for the average Clooney fans, since it will probably leave them scratching their heads just like Soderberg's Solaris did. Though, at least Confessions does not feature Clooney's naked rear as the center of its mainstream hype, in fact it lacks any mainstream hype at all. This is true indie, art house quality, with stylistic (bordering on experimental) editing and cinematography. It all seems so fabricated, just like the story, despite its use of documentary interviews (which appear less real than the narrative elements) and found footage.
The Gong Show, Dating Game and Newleywed Show footage bring back all my childhood television memories of growing up in the 1970's. Confessions is obviously a medium for a critique of U.S. television standards, which haven't changed much since the days of Chuck Barris. U.S. television is still obsessed with its working class culture making fools of themselves on television. We've even taken this to a new level of being "entertained" by "real" (usually lower class) people being chased and arrested on prime time television. And who watches this stuff? Generally the same class of people appearing on screen. How sick is that? According to Confessions, we only have Chuck Barris to blame for "lowering the bar." My only criticism is that Confessions is only preaching to the choir. Its art house, intellectual mentality will make it unapproachable and uncomprehendable for the people that really need to watch and learn, the U.S. working class. Even the best of directors have this problem (Soderberg for example, except for Erin Brokavich which did appeal to the working class audience thanks to Julia Roberts) so I don't hold this against Clooney.
Confessions is a movie that would make his past directors, namely Soderberg and the Coen Brothers, proud. Clooney has obviously learned a lot about directing from his acting career, and untilizes everything effectively while creating his own distinct style. Other actors turned directors should watch and learn.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 19, 2012
I am so surprised there are not more customer reviews for this DVD. It is a great little film! Funny, but very dark at times. It has everything, including great directing (George Clooney), a great cast, and a very quirky story line. I was a bachelor on the original "Dating Game" in 1971. I don't remember Chuck Barris being on the set for our taping. Perhaps he was acting as chaperone to another swinging couple in an exotic locale like Berlin. It was great rewatching this after seeing "The Ides of March." George Clooney's work has only gotten better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 13, 2013
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is the directorial debut of George Clooney, based on a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman. Supposedly there was a lack of communication between the two, which led to dissatisfaction on Kaufman's part. Well, at least according to Wikipedia, but that website is often only slightly more accurate in its adherence to reality than Chuck Barris was in his autobiography of the same name. (Was Barris really a CIA hitman who murdered 33 people? Probably not, but who the heck knows?) Whatever the case, the final script is very good. As far as the direction, Clooney is amazing. It's astonishing that this was his first time behind the camera, because he totally knocked it out of the park.

The cast of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind are all superb. Heading up the film is Sam Rockwell, who does eerily stunning work capturing the persona & mannerisms of Chuck Barris. He portrays Barris as a veritable con artist, a self-involved, womanizing egotist who eventually descends into paranoia, isolation, and madness. It's an amazing performance. Based on this, I'm genuinely surprised that Rockwell isn't a bigger name. But, of course, in Hollywood talent and fame don't often align with the frequency that they should.

The rest of the cast is also noteworthy. Drew Barrymore plays Penny, the long suffering girlfriend of Barris who puts up with his constant lies & cheating. Clooney himself plays Jim Byrd, the icy CIA agent who recruits Barris. Julia Roberts portrays Patricia, a seductive spy who serves as Barris' contact in the field. Now, I am generally not a fan of Roberts' work. However, watching her here, I was actually impressed. It was interesting to see her in a darker, more cynical role than she usually plays. She certainly did fine work with it. Rounding out the cast is the amazing, underrated Rutger Hauer. His character Keeler is a philosophizing veteran hitman who befriends Barris. It's always a pleasure to see Hauer on the screen. Even when cast in a relatively small supporting role such as this, he gives it his all, turning in a charismatic performance.

At first, I was genuinely surprised to learn that Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was a box office bomb. I thought it was an amazing film, and so did my girlfriend. But reflecting on it, I quickly realized that the movie is not easily classifiable. It starts off as a comedy, but then transitions into a dark, disturbing look at a rather unlikable man living a double life who gradually experiences a mental breakdown. Is it supposed to be humorous or somber? Well, both. But I think that for many viewers, who like to compartmentalize their entertainment into comfortable, easily absorbed categories, a film such as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind can be a turn off, as it straddles so many genres.

I definitely recommend giving this movie a try. It really is an amazing film. Myself, I'm looking forward to watching it again.
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