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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind


confessions poster

George Clooney is in the midst of directing his fifth movie. His previous films, especially Ides of March and Good Night, and Good Luck, all showcased a stylized aesthetic and solid anecdotal fluidity. So what happened with his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind? Charlie Kaufman happened.

Grade:

C-

Based on the memoirs of peculiar television renaissance man, Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell), Confessions details the claims made by Barris as to his secret occupation as an assassin. He would travel the world under the guise of chaperone for The Dating Game contestants and kill his targets in the down time.

I mentioned briefly in my review of The Way Way Back how I have found Rockwell to be polarizing and mildly grating due to his outlandish eccentricities and spurious exterior, excluding Guy Fleegman in Galaxy Quest. Confessions is a prime example of this style. Granted, Barris is a strange character who constantly puts up some sort of façade, but Rockwell brings an extra level of smugness to the role that really forces him into the antihero position more than anything else.

confessions 1

Dualism is the emphasis of Confessions. We have Barris’ inability to find a satisfactory lifestyle. He craves success and a feeling of peace, but is wholly incapable of sustaining any normality once he finds a stable situation. This permeates into the rest of the film as every character, save Drew Barrymore’s Penny, is equally dichotomous and conflicted.

Kaufman brings his complex expertise once the film begins mixing what we know and what we’ve been told. He has a flare for mental instability from his previous works and his influence is apparent here. However, it is also clear that Clooney placed more importance on a rigid structure. While allowing the film to be understandable, this conflict in styles prevents the true nature of the beast from being fleshed out.

confessions 2

Most important for a film like Confessions is a perceptible motive. The audience should be able to clearly define on which side of the argument the filmmakers fall. For much of the film, it seems Clooney, Kaufman and the 11 producers (including Steven Soderbergh and the Weinsteins) wanted to believe Barris’ memoir. They wanted to accept this man’s story of espionage and international mystery as truth. Yet, interviews with Barris’ contemporaries, such as Dick Clark, undermine this storyline completely. There are admissions to Barris’ consistent, long absences and social aloofness, but these are more incredulous interviews than evidentiary.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind can best be described as treading water. There is so much going on, but none of it really goes anywhere. Rockwell, like the rest of the cast and crew (basically all of Ocean’s Eleven), is not at his best, but is by no means at his worst. For such a star-studded cast and intriguing tale, Confessions ends up being too forgettable for my liking.

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