Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) (R)

In all fairness, I had not heard of Chuck Barris before I watched "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind". When the movie started to take the typical Kaufman twists, I just assumed that it was the writer playing his usual enjoy his movies, but don't really trust their validity.
But I would hazard to say that "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is Charlie Kaufman's most straightforward work, a twist of a biopic that is greatly impactful and well-executed.
The movie starts with Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) holed up in a hotel. He is unshaven and unkempt; it looks like he's having a breakdown of some kind. Then his girlfriend comes to the door and knocks, her name is Penny (Drew Barrymore). He asks her how she found him, she reminds him that it's hard to keep your location secret when you write on hotel stationary. There's a brief silence. Then Penny tells Chuck that she loves him. She can't understand why, but she wants to marry him and she'll wait as long as she needs to.
Another silence.
Then Chucks says that it's nice she stopped by but he has something to do—she leaves, slightly crushed. The Chuck walks over to a typewriter and he tells us in a voiceover that he has decided to tell his life in full detail.
We go back in time to Chuck's teenage years when all he thought about was sex. He was unlucky in his choice of women, and sometimes frightfully offensive while trying to manipulate them. As he tells the viewer: all he wanted to do was get laid.
But somethings will have to wait.
Chuck makes his way to NBC, deciding that he wants to go into television. He applies to be a page there and gets the job, now he thinks that he's living the high life.
It's in this time where he meets Debbie (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and through her he meets Penny. It's quite clear from the first time that Chuck meets Penny, she is different. Her frankness bordering on bluntness, her attractiveness, and her energy—they are all attributes that Chuck finds tantalizing.
Then, the movie takes a turn.
Chuck proposes "The Dating Game" and it gets picked up as a show. He gets a few minutes of success and fame before it falls from under his feet. This is when he meets Jim Byrd (George Clooney) who conscripts him to work as an operative for the CIA killing people.
Whoa, that was unexpected.
Yes indeed, the film shifts from slight comedy to slight thriller in no time. Chuck discovers that he really likes killing people and it's something that he's good at.
Mixing business with pleasure, Chuck manages to get "The Dating Show" off of its feet by offering trips as prizes to the couple that wins. Then he will act as chaperon for the couple; and whilst vacationing, might have time to slit a few throats.
Things don't always look that great though, and Chuck soon descends into a world of crime and paranoia.
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is incredibly stylish and clever.
This is George Clooney's directorial debut and though I'm not a huge fan of Clooney as an actor, Clooney as a director is a force to be reckoned with.
The movie's complexity and quirk is displayed with such ease that you forget sometimes that you're watching a movie.
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is a throwback to noir with just a splash of Scorsese thrown in. It's a movie of restraint, Drew Barrymore's performance showcases that.
For sex being such a large part of the film, it's interesting to see how much is not shown.
Sam Rockwell is slowly becoming on of my favorite actors, he really disappears into his roles. He convinces you that he is Chuck Barris, a man involved in both murder and television.
You keep asking yourself if everything in the movie is true: is Chuck Barris, the many behind "The Newlywed Game" really a murderer?
It's impossible to not have doubts, but the film isn't about the actions of Chuck Barris—it's about the mind of Chuck Barris.
Perhaps the whole movie is a hallucinogenic trance that we get inducted into. Perhaps it's true. Or maybe the movie is showing Chuck Barris's life, as he saw it.
Anyway you look at it, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" is flawless acted, magnificently directed, and altogether compelling.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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