Running Time: 113 mins
Rated: MA 15+
You may not know his name but chances are you know his work. Chuck Barris was the man who invented the TV game show. He has a lot for which he has to answer.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is based on Chuck Barris' (Rockwell) autobiography in which he claims that he was not only a television producer, but also a CIA agent. This film cuts between the genesis of his game show ideas, "The Dating Game", "I've Got A Secret" and "Blind Date", and his alleged CIA missions into Russia and other foreign parts. His CIA handler is Jim Byrd (Clooney).
In his directorial debut, George Clooney has not gone for an easy story to tell. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind blurs the world between reality and unreality, what actually happened in the game shows with what Barris claims were his still top-secret CIA escapades. True to form the CIA will not confirm or deny that Barris ever worked for them.
As a story it's a hard sell. Clooney delivers a fusion of genres and styles which match the complex tale, drawing on oneiric qualities that suggest that most of Barris' extracurricular jaunts may have been in his dreams. The dream-like echoes are further enhanced as Clooney hires some heavyweight stars in cameo appearances throughout the film, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and Australia's Anthony La Paglia, among them.
Charlie Kaufman, of Adaptation fame, adapted Barris' book for the screen. True to its source the script is filled with highly neurotic characters who are larger than life. They clamour for attention on the screen. Collectively they are exhausting to watch.
It's hard to get a handle on whether Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is meant to be a spoof, or if Clooney is mounting a case for the defence. Either way, this ugly version of A Beautiful Mind only holds interest in as much as it charts the demise of the guru of a real-life TV.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.