George Clooney, whose uncle was the late actor Jos?errer, has come a long way since he played Dr Doug Ross in ER in 1994. Among his big-screen achievements are a role in Return Of The Killer Tomatoes, a Golden Globe for his performance in the Coen brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou? and the establishment of a production company with director Steven Soderbergh. Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind marks his first foray into directing.

Much has been written about how the Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) screenplay fell into George Clooney’s lap after several other directors rejected it. Some years ago Kaufman had penned a screenplay based on veteran TV producer Chuck Barris’s 1982 autobiography. Chuck Barris, in his 70s now and living in St Tropez, was a singer/songwriter who ran game shows from the mid-60s to the mid-80s with catchy titles like The Dating Game Show, The Newlywed Game Show, The Game Game Show and The Gong Show. In case you think it is fiction, Clooney includes a clip from the original Dating Game Show in the film. Barris was a self-made man known as the Ayatollah of Trasherola for obvious reasons. In his original autobiography, since reissued minus some assertions, Barris laid claim to polluting the airwaves with mind-numbing puerile entertainment as well as murdering 33 enemies of the United States. Fact or fiction, it proved irresistible to George Clooney.

This year we have seen a few established actors make their debuts behind the camera, including Denzel Washington with Antwone Fisher and John Malkovich with The Dancer Upstairs. Washington trod an easier path whereas Malkovich and Clooney chose projects that were more difficult and could derail. Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind is quite an absurdist story and could easily have been called Confessions Of A Delusional Mind as it is often difficult to separate fact, fiction and delusion.

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind is a strange film that jumps between genres. It starts off being quite funny, almost a comedy, and then evolves into a sort of spy thriller where it changes pace completely. It is this switching of genres that makes the film become more than a little incoherent and slightly off-beat.

Clooney rustled up a stellar cast for his project, including Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore,

Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal and a host of real TV people from the era who play themselves. Brad Pitt and Matt Damon were so keen to help their mate they did their cameos for free. Sam Rockwell plays the sleazy, delusional Barris to a T and deservedly won the Silver Bear at Berlin for his role. Julia Roberts is so over the top she is almost a cartoon character reprising the Russian spy Natasha from Rocky And Bullwinkle and Clooney himself is possibly the weakest link in the role of government spook with a skinny, often skewiff, moustache.

The look and style of the film is outstanding. Academy Award-winning war photographer turned cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel (X-Men 2, Three Kings) provides images which support the quirky story. Clooney largely pulls this strangely entertaining story off and it will be interesting to see if and what he directs next.

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