CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND
Review by Gordon Justesen
Drew Barrymore, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Sam Rockwell, Rutger Hauer
Director: George Clooney
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 114 Minutes
Release Date: September 9, 2003
name is Charles Hirsch Barris. I have written pop songs. I have been a
television producer. I am responsible for polluting the airwaves with mind
numbing puerile entertainment. In addition, I have murdered 33 human beings.”
I vaguely remember
watching repeated episodes of The Gong Show in my younger years, but at
the time I wasn’t familiar with the eccentric persona of Chuck Barris, the
show’s host who also conceived such landmark television game shows as The
Dating Game and The Newlywed Game. Now I’ve come to realize that he
was to broadcast TV what Andy Kaufman was to the stand up world. You could never
really get a sense of where this guy was going with his wacky on-screen persona.
of a Dangerous Mind, adapted
from Barris’ autobiography of the same name, offers a vivid explanation as to
why Barris behaved the way he did while in front of the camera. Although Barris
himself has never said that anything in his story is absolutely true, the film
does do a convincing job at suggesting that the television personality led
uniquely dark double life. Like the Andy Kaufman biopic, Man
on the Moon, this story, comprised of allegedly true events is striking in
the way its strange allegations reflect the personality of the lead character.
Barris is played
with astonishing accuracy by the dynamic Sam Rockwell, who we will definitely be
seeing more of following this wonderful breakthrough performance. The film opens
in the early 80s, with Barris standing in his darkened apartment, staring at a
snow-filled TV set. As he stands there, he recalls the events of what he refers
to as a “wasted life”, which led to his present state. Barris quickly
recalls that his first noted flaw in life was women. Encountering many different
women in his early years, he would succeed in numerous one night stands, and
always wanting something more.
One night, he meets
the beautiful and witty Penny (Drew Barrymore), the roommate of one of Chuck’s
latest one night stand. Penny is an all around free spirit, engaging in the same
lustful manner that Chuck is experimenting in. They develop an immediate
attraction, but only on a physical level, as neither is interested much in
settling down, making this the ideal woman for him.
wanted a job in television, having always been fascinated by the art form. He
gets his first big gig as a backstage worker on American Bandstand. It is
at this point where Barris spontaneously found himself writing lyrics to what
would become the number one hit, “Palisades Park”. One day, while spending
time with Penny, Barris is soon given an idea for a game show that would become The
Dating Game, and soon he is on his way to the top, even though this and
future television project would be regarded by some critics as the destruction
of Western civilization.
television success eventually attracts interests from everyone, including the
office of National Security. He is soon confronted by mysterious CIA
representative Jim Byrd (Clooney) with an offer to participate in some top
secret extra curricular activities. Convinced that he fits a so-called profile,
Barris is sent to a discreet location for proper training, and soon afterward
becomes a hit man for the CIA.
recreation of Chuck Barris is so right on the money that I’m astonished that
it didn’t garner an Oscar nod. Those familiar with his on screen antics on The
Gong Show, which had many suspecting Barris high as the highest kite, will
be floored by the authenticity of Rockwell’s performance. In addition, Julia
Roberts has a couple of scenes, in a role she reportedly did for nothing, and
delivers some of here most brave work to date. Barrymore and Clooney also shine
as always in their supporting roles.
of a Dangerous Mind marks the
directorial debut of George Clooney, who can now be considered a double threat,
as I find this to be by far one of the best directorial efforts from a big name
movie star. Clooney also picked the perfect project for his first stab at
directing. Clooney’s father was a director of TV game shows, allowing him as a
backstage observer to gather all the research he would ever need.
screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, who I’m surprised is still able to pen even
three words after writing something like Adaptation,
the movie succeeds at painting true life figures in a truly bizarre atmosphere.
The film also breathes in a documentary feel to it by including scattered
interview snippets with those who knew the real Chuck Barris, including Dick
Clark, Jim Lange, and Gong Show favorite Gene Gene The Dancing Machine.
Schrader’s Auto Focus, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a striking portrait of a man who
at one point was on top of the world, but didn’t know where to direct his
happiness and ended up leading something of a double life, even though Chuck
Barris’s story ends on a much happier note than that of Bob Crane’s. Clooney
proves himself as a serious filmmaker, and the performance by Sam Rockwell is
something of a knockout revelation.
BONUS TRIVIA: Look
closely, and you’ll spot Clooney’s Ocean’s
Eleven buddies Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as Bachelor’s 1 and 2 in a Dating
Miramax boasts one
of their most outstanding looking discs to date with this release. Clooney’s
film is shot in a unique format, much similar to the look of the actor’s 1999
film Three Kings. The picture contains
momentary instances of high-contrast images, most notably in the many interview
segments, as well as broad use of coloring. So don’t be thrown off by the
eccentric look, it was purposely created for the movie. High marks all the way!
The supplied 5.1
track is quite lively. The surround sound quality comes into superb effect at
certain points, especially during the game show and Gong Show sequences.
Dialogue is heard perfectly, momentary music playback is delivered dynamically,
and a few technical sound effects get a good use as well.
No need to bang the
gong for this area! Miramax has delivered the goods this time around with a neat
package that includes a commentary track with George Clooney and cinematographer
Newton Thomas Sigel, six behind the scenes vignettes, deleted scenes with
optional commentary, Sam Rockwell’s screen tests, several recreated Gong Show
acts (very funny), a documentary titled “The Real Chuck Barris”, a still
gallery, and bonus trailers.