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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Review

By Joe Lozito

"Mind" Games


George Clooney has always seemed like a fun guy - someone you'd want to hang around and drink a beer with - but I never thought of him as someone who'd want to direct a movie. He always struck me as someone who wouldn't want to be bothered. Directing a movie is no picnic, but I'll be damned if Mr. Clooney doesn't make it seem like fun. Of course, he did have some help from his source material. Not only is he making a movie out of "Gong Show" host Chuck Barris' notoriously sketchy autobiography, but he's got adaptation prodigy Charlie Kaufman ('Adaptation') writing the screenplay.

"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" tells the story of Barris' rise from struggling jingle writer to what some would call the inventor of the modern reality show (yes, he's the one to blame). Along the way Barris falls in with a mysterious CIA operative (Mr. Clooney himself in a deader than deadpan turn) who offers him the chance for a steady paycheck as a hired assassin. When Barris' "Gong Show" and "Newlywed Game" take off, he still finds himself leading a double-life for 'the company'. In an amusing segment, Barris uses the cover of chaperoning winning "Dating Game" contestants on a trip to beautiful West Berlin to carry out an assassination.

As Barris, Sam Rockwell is a revelation. Typically a supporting player in films like "Galaxy Quest" and "The Green Mile", here Mr. Rockwell creates a complete vision of Barris without resorting to imitation or caricature. Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore are given little to do, but enjoy their roles as the two love interests from Barris' separate lives.

Mr. Clooney and Mr. Kaufman make all this work by keeping it very, very light. The film is shot with the washed out feel of Mr. Clooney's "Three Kings" and the scenes flow together in a way that makes the whole thing feel like a fever dream. One wonders how much of this storytelling was in the script and how often Mr. Clooney called upon good pal Steven Sodorbergh for advice. Whatever the inspiration, "Confessions" works. Of course, all this may or may not be a true story. The real life Barris (who has a cameo as the end of the film) annoyingly will never tell. Perhaps this is his version of reality programming.

What did you think?

Movie title Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Release year 2002
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary George Clooney's directorial debut is a surprisingly spry, witty adaptation of 'Gong Show' host Chuck Barris' autobiography, thanks in no small part to the man who redefined adaptation, writer Charlie Kaufman, and a perfectly cast Sam Rockwell as Barris.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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