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Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2003)
Rated R

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, and George Clooney

Rating:
*****
out of
*****

If you grew up in the 1970s, you'll remember the work of Chuck Barris. His game shows, including "The Dating Game," "The Newlywed Game and, of course, "The Gong Show," were all extremely popular with audiences in the 70s, especially juvenile audiences. According to Chuck Barris' book, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: An Unauthorized Autobiography", as he was making those game shows, he was also a hitman for the CIA. While most people agree that this claim is entirely fictitious, this film adaptation of the book does its best to make you believe it really happened. Or does it?

Barris, played in exuberant fashion by Sam Rockwell, is followed through his early days as a struggling NBC page through his sale of his first game show, "The Dating Game", to ABC and beyond. His strange relationship with Penny (Drew Barrymore) provides some footing in reality. When CIA agent Jim Byrd (George Clooney) introduces himself to Barris, the film embarks on its strange journey through the back alleys of Helsinki and East Berlin as Barris begins taking jobs for him and "The Company."

I'm not sure what exactly it is I liked so much about Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. Its subject matter is a fuzzy mess of game show nostalgia, cloak-and-dagger elements, comedic relief, and self-loathing. Strangely, as mixed up as it sounds, it was fascinating to watch. Being that this was George Clooney's directorial debut, I was even more impressed with the clever scene compositions and the cinematography.

Sam Rockwell's performance is probably the single best thing about Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. He's energetic, disturbed, funny, and seems completely at home in Barris' world. Other characters aren't given nearly as much screen time as Barris, so no one else in the film gives a performance on the level of Rockwell's. It is nice to see Rutger Hauer in a very good role in a non-schlock film.

While I'm sure some people will find this movie a complete mess, I can't recommend it enough. It's definitely worth searching out in the theater or, if you must, wait for the video release. Either way, give it a chance and you'll likely find it to be one of 2003's most overlooked films.

Trivia: Both Julia Roberts and Drew Barrymore worked for a scale salary of $250,000 as a favor to their friend, director George Clooney. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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