Netflix Suggested Viewing #3: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Directed by George Clooney (actor, Batman and Robin, The Peacemaker) and written by Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich) and starring Sam Rockwell (Matchstick Men, Moon, being generally awesome) this is a film based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris, the creator of The Dating Game and The Gong Show who may or may not have moonlighted as a contract killer for the CIA during the Cold War.
If none of those shows are familiar to you that’s because you are using the Internet and are computer literate. No offense to the previous generations but trash TV is not an invention of the 21st century and Chuck Barris was apparently something akin to Jerry Springer in the 70s. Come to think of it, that might be a dated reference as well. What would be more apropos? Snooki. Chuck Barris did to television what Jersey Shore did to television.
Aside from that he may have murdered a few dozen people at the behest if the CIA, although there is no way of proving this and the man appears to have been something of a sociopath. When I say this film is based on his autobiography I use the word loosely. Anyone familiar with Charlie Kaufman’s writing should be aware of his ability to mold surreal, absurd stories into fascinating films that somehow make perfect sense throughout but are truly bizarre in reflection, like dreams upon waking. Take an already outlandish story and add a rookie director in Clooney, who goes out of his way to use any number of filters, unorthodox camera framing/angles and transforming stage design and you should end up with an expensive student art film with enough cameos to make for a good, if baffling drinking game.
What ties the whole experience together is the performance of Sam Rockwell, who delivers a staggering range of skill and emotion as Barris, a thoroughly unlikable, shallow, boorish, truly creepy character as realized by the script. Somehow Rockwell is pathetic enough but not loathsome (in spite of a really unsettling flashback to his youth where he is portrayed by a certain Arrested Development actor you will have a hard time looking at the same way again), charmingly manic, suave as all get out, and, ultimately, infinitely watchable all in the same role. It makes for a strong sense of cognitive dissonance that Barris would confess to his most deplorable characteristics and insecurities while also portraying this fantastic alter ego as an assassin. Without all the stylistic flourishes, this movie would be less charming and more of a depressing character study in delusion and self aggrandizing fantasy.
But with all three factors, Rockwell, Kaufman’s script, and Clooney’s overcompensation, the resulting film is entertaining as hell. Period. I’d go so far as to call it uneven, poorly paced, and disorienting in tone throughout, but I’ve seen it four or five times and enjoyed every viewing. I think the idea was to be slightly schizophrenic in theme. Keep an eye out for symbolism, specifically when it comes to refrigerators. And I finally noticed who Barris’ buddies are while he’s in CIA school (name tags).
This film is absolutely worth a viewing; it is, for lack of a sufficiently sophisticated descriptor, cool as hell.

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