Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

dir. Clooney

Opens Fri Jan 24

Various Theaters

With some movies you say, "That's not what I expected. I liked it," and others you say, "That's not what I expected. I didn't like it." Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is unexpectedly unlikable. An adaptation of gonzo TV producer Chuck Barris' "unauthorized autobiography," it tells the story of one man's struggle to find his place in the world, while devising some of the most puerile television ever made. This is a man I liked, I grew up with, and this film made me like him less.

The film is framed by scenes of an aging Chuck standing naked in front of a TV screen, reflecting on his life and how it came to be such a big pile of crap. It tells of his youth; tricking his niece into licking his penis, getting into television because it would get him more pussy, and as an adult, trying to find balance between the crazy world of producing The Gong Show and being a hitman for the CIA.

Naturally, Barris was never a hitman. He used this convention in the book to symbolize his deep self-loathing and misanthropy. But in the film, first-time director George Clooney unfortunately presents this fib as a possible eccentricity (kind of like Andy Kaufman pretending to be Tony Clifton).

However, it can't be denied that Clooney is an excellent actor's director. While his cinematic tricks seem forced, the cast is uniformly terrific; including Clooney as the dead-eyed CIA handler, and Drew Barrymore as Chuck's long-suffering lover. Sam Rockwell's turn as Chuck is riddled with the same tics he used as the bad guy in Charlie's Angels, but he still holds the eye to the screen.

But here's the problem in a nutshell: Chuck Barris was a fun guy. A REALLY FUN GUY. And while I'm sure he's had his share of personal tragedies well, boo-hoo-hoo. So have we all. This film presents him wallowing waist-deep in a "misunderstood artist" pity puddle. And I'm sorry, but nobody gives a shit about a successful millionaire feeling sorry for himself.

If this is the way Clooney chooses to tell a story of someone's life, I hope he never makes a movie about me.