Film review by: Witney Seibold
Sometimes the funniest jokes are the ones where you are the object of derision (Remember the oeuvre of Andy Kaufman?). When we finally realize that we’ve been had, we can chuckle at ourselves, learn, and maybe avoid being made a sap again. Until, of course, the next time. Trash game show spinman Chuck Barris has played the ultimate prank on us with his memoirs, in which he states that aside from being creator and host of such widely criticized shows as “The Dating Game” and “The Gong Show,” he was secretly an assassin for the CIA. True? Well, what’s the fun in knowing for sure?
Now George Clooney has deftly directed the backwardly luminous “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” the odd filmic journey behind Barris’ real life. It follows Barris (a wonderful Sam Rockwell), slightly out of chronological order through his rocky adolescence, his career as a television producer, his relationship with Penny (Drew Barrymore), and his being approached by a strange flat CIA man (Clooney). In his television life, he’s an infamous star, the man McLuhan would have smacked in the head. In his CIA life, he’s an expert killer who loves his job more than is comfortable. We also meet a fellow assassins, one a bombshell played by Julia Roberts (!), and the other a touching aging man played by Rutger Hauer (!!). We’re also treated to clips from Barris’ shows as well as interviews with people familiar with the 1960s game show circuit, like Dick Clark, Gene-Gene the Dancing Machine, and Jaye P. Morgan.
Clooney has, in the last few years, hooked up as a partner with quirky and brilliant director Steven Soderbergh, and his own directing style seems greatly influenced. This is no bad thing. “Confessions” was made as a colorful, bizarre, tragic, and whimsical funhouse. We know we cannot believe what we are seeing is true, but we feel that Barris may have believed they were true. It reflects the era, but still has an odd, washed-out, a-step-away-from-reality look to it. It besots our senses of reality the same way as writer Charlie Kaufman’s recent film “Adaptation.” “Confessions” is pitch-perfect melodramatic absurdity.