ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  george clooney

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  dramatic comedy

LENGTH  -  113 minutes

RELEASED  -  31 december 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  universal pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  Dangerous Mind

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $29,000,000
confessions of a dangerous mind - a shot from the film


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an adaptation of the cult memoir of game show impressario chuck barris, in which he purports to have been a cia hitman.

brad pitt and matt damon both make cameos.


picture from confessions of a dangerous mind

picture from confessions of a dangerous mind

picture from confessions of a dangerous mind


three out of four possible stars

As the first film on which George Clooney has carried the title “director,” Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a film with more triumphs than faults and marks the beginning of what is sure to be a successful, career behind the camera for Clooney. It is possible that his experiences in front of the camera have prepared him well for displaying his obvious ability behind it, though it could also be just a case of good casting. Playing the lead roll of real life television producer/CIA operative, Chuck Barris, Sam Rockwell shows he is a master of both physical and verbal comedy and will grab the audience’s attention from frame one.

It is hard to say whether the script’s dialogue is expertly written, or whether Rockwell’s hilarious delivery of his lines is the reason for the film’s success, but perhaps it is a combination of both. Certainly, when Rockwell mutters some witty phrase with a mouth-full of food, the audience will laugh simply at the visual of his character doing such, but that he says something entertaining as well is probably a credit to the screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman. As the writer responsible for the hilarious Being John Malkovich and the more recent, Adaptation., it seems the Kaufman’s donation to this film will rate him additional critical praise for his talents.

Though that is not to say that his script is completely without fault. Though this problem could be the result of editing, the film does slip up in the second half. The charged momentum present in the first half doesn’t carry through to the end of the picture and viewers might find themselves wondering why the energy dissipates. Perhaps it is that Chuck Barris’s life story, written for the world to see in his “unauthorized” autobiography, does not have enough material in it to sustain the drama of a feature length film. Or perhaps the film could have benefited from a few nips and tucks in the editing bay (though the movie is not overly long at 113 minutes).

Whatever the reason, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind starts out very well, but might take some viewers by surprise with its lack of direction in the third act. (“Direction” meaning character motivation more than Clooney’s efforts behind the camera) The element that probably saves the picture from this fault is probably the amount of comedy present in every scene. Even when the characters are involved in rather serious situations, there is reason to laugh. Rather than being a serious study about the life of a man who has supposedly “killed thirty-two people,” Confessions is a humorous look of the era, television producing, and America’s fear of Communism.

There are definitely jokes in the film that will probably only be picked up by people “in the know” about television politics and upper management at television studios, but people without such prior knowledge will gain some insight in any case. The jokes are not so far removed from the mainstream like they were in Adaptation. (strangely enough, another Kaufman script about the “Industry”), so Confessions will probably have wider mainstream appeal. Of course, it won’t appeal to just everybody, but aficionados of physical comedy will have nothing to complain about with Rockwell’s performance.

Or any of the other performances in the film. In one of her most convincing roles in recent memory, Drew Barrymore demonstrates that she does indeed have her illustrious family’s talent hidden somewhere beneath her wide smile, playing, “Penny,” the very open-minded girlfriend (or sexual partner to be more exact) of Chuck Barrie. George Clooney also puts himself in front of the camera (engaging in triple duty for this picture, being its director, one of its producers, and a star) as the man who comes to induct Barrie’s character into the CIA as a domestic operative. Clooney loses more of himself in this roll than he has in many of his pictures and allows the audience to see that he can play someone else on screen than just George Clooney.

Making a small appearance also in the film, Julia Roberts spends her time in front of the camera with her usual talent displayed, though some of her appeal comes from the combination of well-written dialogue and a killer wardrobe. Roberts represents the entire package of period style acting and has the attitude to match the film’s irreverent style. But the true star of the film is Sam Rockwell. Though the film in its entirety does not gallop away at full speed for the duration, it is still an entertaining experience to say the least, mostly because of Rockwell’s excellent performance. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind succeeds because of Rockwell’s abilities and is a worthy start for director George Clooney.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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