In the pantheon of Charlie Kaufman-scripted films, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
is probably the one that gets overlooked the most (unless, of course, that distinction belongs to Human Nature
, which it very well might). I put this down to the fact that its most audacious qualities spring directly from Chuck Barris's "unauthorized autobiography" instead of Kaufman's fevered imagination. (Sure, Adaptation.
was also based on another person's work, but there's no denying that Kaufman put a lot of himself into it as well.) Then again, when your subject is a television producer who claims to have been an independent agent for the C.I.A. at the same time he shepherded such shows as The Dating Game
, The Newlywed Game
and The Gong Show
onto the air, there's really no need to embellish his story.
Of course, if the script is Kaufman at his most straightforward, then George Clooney's direction is as elaborate as can be, using every trick in the book and then some. Clooney's biggest coup, though, was casting Sam Rockwell as Barris since he takes the part and runs with it. I'd seen Rockwell in a few things prior to this -- most notably Box of Moonlight
-- but this was the role that proved he had the chops to carry a film by himself. This is not to undervalue the contributions of his co-stars -- a constellation that includes Drew Barrymore, Michael Cera, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julia Roberts, Rutger Hauer and James Urbaniak, not to mention Clooney himself and cameos by Brad Pitt and Matt Damon -- but this really is Rockwell's show from top to bottom. (And what a lovely bottom he has, too. Sorry, had to throw that out there.)