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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2003 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
from Film Forum, 01/16/03

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind marks the debut of George Clooney as a director. Clooney has an all-star cast bringing to life this somewhat-true story of Chuck Barris, the reckless and obnoxious game-show host of The Gong Show in the '70s. Barris, played by Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest), claims that he worked for the CIA and assassinated 33 people even during the years he was famous in the entertainment industry. The movie leaves us unsure whether the stories we're being told are real or imagined.

Gerri Pare (Catholic News Service) "The sleek visuals Clooney employs sometimes give the movie an intriguing film-noir look, but it's still hard to be compelled by the story of this coarse, self-aggrandizing celebrity. Since his superspy exploits seem thoroughly concocted, we are left with the chronicle of how he foisted his lowest-common-denominator programming on the American public. Frankly, it's not a pretty story that you would want to pay to see."

Lynn Nusser (Preview) says, "The vulgar, sex-obsessed, selfish Chuck Barris is hardly big-screen material. The film treats his murder missions nonchalantly, presenting them as dark comedy. If you decide to see the film with its bad language, sexual content, violence and rear nudity, afterwards you may feel the need to offer up some confessions of your own."

from Film Forum, 01/30/03

Earlier this year, Auto Focus told the story of Bob Crane, a television celebrity whose success fueled a self-destructive plunge into sexual recklessness. As if following that film's lead, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind arrives with the autobiographical adventures of Gong Show-host Chuck Barris. Between episodes of his crass and outrageous game show, Barris would have us believe, he was out performing assassinations for the CIA.

Confessions is the directorial debut of George Clooney, and critics are applauding his efforts as accomplished, stylish, and enormously entertaining. And it should be, with a talent list that includes Clooney, the underrated Sam Rockwell in the lead role, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer, and even the briefly glimpsed Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.

Still, religious press critics have mixed feelings about the film.

J. Robert Parks (review pending at The Phantom Tollbooth) says, "One of my problems with Confessions is that it's never clear whether we're supposed to think Barris is crazy or just putting us on. Now I'm all for ambiguity and making an audience figure things out, but the ambiguity here makes it impossible to offer any judgments at all. We just watch this train wreck of a life, laugh at a few of the situations, and scratch our head when everything's done." He adds, "On the positive side, it is a great ride."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says Clooney shows "promise" but stumbles through "overambitious freshman mistakes." Rockwell, though, shines. "As someone who grew up during the Chuck Barris years of titillating TV innuendo, I found his depiction [of Barris] uncannily accurate."

David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus), calls it "a fun film that takes a serious look at the purpose of life. The film is not what could be described as spiritual. It is more base—just as Chuck Barris' productions were. I must admit that I was hoping for a less explicit screenplay and a PG rating. Accepting it on its own terms, however, Confessions … explores a so-called time of innocence by stripping off the facade of nostalgia. [The film] reminds us that crassness has always been a part of entertainment industry and in popular culture … there has never been a time of innocence. Nostalgia is deceiving. There is nothing new under the sun. The world has always been in a fallen state. Humans have always been as we are."

The film's release has brought with it a resurgence of articles about Barris's strange autobiography. Are his confessions about killing true? Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) says, "When I met Barris I asked him, as everyone does, if this story is true. He declined to answer. The book and the movie speak for themselves—or don't speak for themselves, depending on your frame of mind. As for myself, I think he made it all up and never killed anybody. Having been involved in a weekly television show myself, I know for a melancholy fact that there is just not enough time between tapings to fly off to Helsinki and kill for my government."


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