Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/08/2003
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a movie that I’d been looking forward to mainly because the story intrigued me. Was Chuck Barris crazy, or was he telling the truth. This movie doesn’t necessarily answer your question. In fact, it may make you wonder even more.
The movie starts in 1981 and TV producer Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) has locked himself inside a New York hotel. He is standing naked in front of the TV, the medium that made him successful and is having a mental breakdown. He decides the only way he will back his mental state back is by writing a “cautionary tale” of his life. Through a sequence of flashbacks, we see him tell that tale. He starts in 1940, where a sexual encounter with a cousin named Tuvia (Chelsea Ceci) has defined his relationship with women. It’s then on to 1955 in New York where he institutes himself into the world of TV production as a NBC page. In 1961, he is now in Philadelphia where he's writing pop songs and trying to make a pilot. It's in Philly that he meets the sexually adventurous Penny (Drew Barrymore) who gives him the idea for his first hit, “The Dating Game.” He also meets Jim Byrd (George Clooney), a CIA recruiter who believes Chuck fits the profile to be a freelance hit man. Barris thinks he is crazy and doesn’t want to do it at first, but after his pilot is turned down, he eventually agrees to go through the training process, and later, turns out to be rather talented in the field. He uses his chaperone duties on “The Dating Game” (which ultimately gets picked up as a successful time-filler for ABC) as his cover for his hits. As his television career gets bigger, he wants to just be a TV producer and drop the CIA gig, but his contact with suspicious operatives such as Patricia Watson (Julia Roberts) and Keeler (Rutger Hauer) means that he knows too much and can never leave. He realizes he has to learn how to become a TV producer by day and an assassin by night. This is on top of dealing with his shaky relationship with Penny and his latest mission to find a mole intent on bumping off operatives, himself being one of them.
This movie is based off Barris’s 1982 biography of the same name and it is weird, but not hard to follow. Clooney chose this project to be his directorial debut, and while it has some of the usual “art house” trappings, it is a very entertaining film. It made me think that Barris is the inventor of many of the shows that inspired the reality shows of today. The influence of his three big hits, “The Dating Game,” “The Newlywed Game,” and “The Gong Show” could easily be seen in “The Bachelor,” “Temptation Island,” and “30 Seconds to Fame,” respectively.
Clooney chose the right person to play Barris with Rockwell. He is the right combination of creepy and goofy. In fact, everyone plays their part well, including the mysterious character played by Roberts.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind doesn’t clear up the “is he crazy” question, but maybe it isn’t a question that is meant to be answered (or shouldn’t be answered.) You will have to decide for yourself what is real and what is just the overactive imagination of a trash TV pioneer.
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