George Clooney has come a long way since wobbling his head in a charismatic way in ER. Now a bona fide movie star and respected producer, Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind gives him the opportunity to add the role of director to his CV.
Confessions is a hugely ambitious film for a debut director, but Clooney has the chutzpah to pull it off. This is a remarkably confident and assured performance from Clooney. He’s obviously been influenced heavily by some of his former collaborators such as the Coen Brothers and especially Steven Soderbergh. That’s not a bad thing though – if you’re going to learn a trade, you may as well learn from the best.
The film is an adaptation (by Charlie Kaufman, the twisted genius behind Being John Malkovich and Adaptation) of the autobiography of Chuck Barris, who was the man behind such televisual trash as The Dating Game and The Gong Show. Barris also claims he was recruited by the CIA as a hitman and killed 33 people, but it is unclear whether this is the truth or fantasy on Barris part. The film does nothing to clear this up, and this ambiguity adds to its charm.
After years on the sidelines as a supporting actor, Sam Rockwell gives the performance of his life as Barris. He’s never overly showy, yet lends his essentially rather nasty character a real likability and charm. As you’re watching the film, you’re rooting for Rockwell but never entirely sure why. It takes a talented actor to do that, and Rockwell is one of the most talented actors of his generation. Hopefully his leading man status is now assured.
Being one of the most well-connected men in Hollywood, Clooney has also assembled a stellar cast around Rockwell. Drew Barrymore is as adorably kooky as ever as Penny, the love of Barris’ life, while Julia Roberts has a small role as a fellow agent he has an affair with. Look out too for hilarious cameos from Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Clooney also appears as the CIA man who recruits Rockwell, giving himself the best line in the process (“You’re 32 years old and you’ve done nothing with your life. Jesus Christ was dead and back again by the time he was 32. You better get crackin'”).
Although this is a confident debut from Clooney, his inexperience shows in the second half of the film. The pace drags somewhat once Barris embarks on his CIA adventures abroad, which is a shame as this is exactly where the audience should be gripped. Roberts is never particularly convincing and the film slows down whenever her and Rockwell try to conjure up some non-existent chemistry.
However it takes a director of real talent to channel Kaufman’s vision onto screen, and Clooney can’t be faulted for his efforts here. This is an intelligent film which will propel Rockwell to the A-List and adds yet another facet to the multi-talented Clooney.