Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#106: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

George Clooney must be an influential person in Hollywood if he can call up Julia Roberts and ask her to act in a role for his film for free. And get people like Johnny Depp to be on Executive Production team. And apart from him bring in friends like Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Soderbergh in his team. Of course, it helped that the movie had a script that had people like Sam Mendes, Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher interested in directing the movie. The fact remains that George has steadily built a reputation over the years as a man who has a good nose when it comes to selecting movies- either as an actor, producer or director. With his debut as the director of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, he did his reputation no harm. If at all, he cemented it.

Based on the life of TV show producer and host Chuck Barris, the movie is an account of his autobiography which also suggests that Barris was a covert CIA operative. Charlie Kaufman adapted the script from the book based on Barris' autobiography in 1997. A lot of people were quite blown away with Kaufman's script and different actors and directors on the project changed hands until Clooney came on-board with Sam Rockwell as the lead actor in 2000. George speaks about choosing Rockwell as the lead actor for such an important role on the DVD of the movie mentioning how since the first time Rockwell gave his audition and seemed a perfect fit for the role. It wasn't just the physical similarity to Barris but also the mannerisms that Rockwell brought to the table. Drew Barrymore as Rockwell's love interest Penny was someone who kept track of the script since 1997 and probably the only constant on the movie since then. Whether or not the movie is a true account, given then CIA has always denied that Barris was ever involved in their operations, is irrelevant. Even people who were working on the project weren't sure if they were working for a true story. What matters though is that the movie has a brilliant narrative peppered with some smart sequences in the screenplay.

It also helps that in spite of a budget contsraint, there's no dearth of quality in the credits of the movie. One of the first things that Clooney did once he got on the project was getting on-board the best technicians. Along with Clooney and his formidable cast, Newton Siegel as DOP (Usual Suspects, X-Men) and Stephen Mirrione (Traffic, Ocean's Eleven) formed the core. The result is the dark comedy that Confessions of a Dangerous Mind really is. With a completely character-driven plot, the movies takes us through Barris' life till the time he meets CIA-man Jim Byrd (George Clooney) outside a restaurant in what can be considered as the first half. Jim coaxes Barris into committing for covert operations for the CIA even as he in-charge of NBC's TV shows and that's the second half of the movie.

At one level, the movie tries to tell us the intricacies of being a spy and how messed up a spy's life can get. On another level, it is just a comedy about the eccentric man that Barris was. The good thing about Confessions... is that it delivers at both levels. The acting is deliberately understated and effective. The screenplay is where Clooney brings out the wild side of his script. With a bit of experimentative indulgence, he brings a style that is unique to the movie and keeps the visuals inventive without ever crossing the line. Kaufman has gone on record saying that Clooney's handling of the script was less than adept while Clooney has responded saying the original script wouldn't have interested a studio in 'greenlighting the project.' Whatever, the verdict on that might be, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is an experience you just shouldn't miss out on.

Rating: 7/10

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