Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Directed by George Clooney

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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Synopsis & Analysis
George Clooney's consistently quirky and often deliciously witty Confessions of a Dangerous Mind combines a narration of the life of Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell), the creator of such television shows as The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and The Gong Show, with depictions of the missions that man claims he undertook as an assassin working secretly for the CIA.

The director's presentation of his protagonist's life is almost always well done and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek. Clooney, having revealed the young Barris as a tricky, randy boy who convinces a girl his own age to lick his genitals by betting her they taste like strawberries, goes on to show how, as an adult, that man makes numerous equally clever attempts to seduce women, though with inconsistent results, and how much of his life, in fact, consists of a series of outlandish schemes. While some of Barris's activities, such as his creation of his delightfully tacky game shows, are endearing, others, such as his leaving his wife when he learns that she is pregnant and his repeated unfaithfulness to his long-term girlfriend, Penny (Drew Barrymore), expose him as being, at the same time, less than entirely admirable. Thanks to the diversity of such occurrences, the protagonist emerges as a reasonably complex and involving person.

Barris's weird adventures as a CIA killer are equally nicely depicted. Not only are they filled with hilarious scheming, wacky murders, and international intrigue, which events often involve a suave and sinister secret agent, Jim Byrd (George Clooney), and a mysterious femme fatale, Patricia Watson (Julia Roberts), but they are also so interwoven with the other parts of the hero's life that the viewer is never certain whether they are to be taken, within the context of the film, as being as real as those occurrences, as lies told by Barris, or even as representations of his delusions. While such a presentation leaves the viewer with a sense of uncertainty as to how he is to approach the events of the film, this lack of assuredness actually helps to make the tale more enticing. The director conjures up a strange, fluid world of silly fantasy that has much of the appeal of a child's game.

What is more, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is invariably well realized visually. The director has given several scenes set at a particular time period a look similar to that which can be found in movies that were being made at that time. The effect Clooney so achieves is both appealing to look at and helps to draw the viewer into the film's fabulous universe.

While I will hardly claim that Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a great movie, it is entertaining and skillfully made.

Review by Keith Allen

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