1 January 2004 | bob the moo
Darkly comic tale
Chuck Barris is a man who decides that his future is in television and tries to come up with ideas for new shows to elevate himself up from the position of tour guide. When his show isn't picked up from the pilot, he is approached by Jim Byrd who offers him work with the CIA. When he finds out that this work is basically as an assassin, he still does it and begins to become quite proficient at it. When his show ideas get picked up by the network he continues to kill, using his job as a producer as cover.
Although I missed this at the cinema, I was keen to get this film when it came out on DVD and wasn't disappointed by the film. The tone from the start is darkly comic, becoming increasingly dark and decreasingly comic as it goes along. Supposedly based on a true story this can be enjoyed with little or no knowledge of the characters and TV shows involved - indeed I had never heard of Barris even if I was aware of what UK TV calls Blind Date. I don't know if it makes it a better or worse film for supposedly being true - I enjoyed it even with me treating it like a work of fiction more than anything else.
Not all the plot really worked of course. As it gets darker it begins to lose it's grip and become slightly less entertaining but strangely more watchable. It is at it's best in the first half though. While Barris and Byrd are good characters, some aren't as well used and you get the impression that the script wishes they weren't involved at all, certainly Penny and Patricia were a little confused and what was hinted at was never revealed in terms of who they were.
Rockwell runs the film really well and copes with the comic stuff and the darker stuff. Clooney is quite a good character in a small role but he does better as director. He uses cross cuts really well and has a lot of help from his cinematographer in terms of effective use of lighting and such. Considering this is his debut as director he does a surprisingly assured job and has a good sense of style. Stars clutter the support cast, some in OK roles and some in cameos. Barrymore is OK but I didn't find her character that interesting, Roberts is more interesting but the significance of her character in Barris' life wasn't developed well enough. Hauer is good and Pitt, Damon and Gyllenhaal make fleeting appearances.
Overall this was a very enjoyable film with it's own unique dark tone and comic content. It may not be 100% successful but it is a film more worthy of viewing than most of the stuff that you see on the shelves at your local video store. Not to everyone tastes perhaps (and it didn't make money at the box office) but Rockwell is great, Clooney shows a deft touch as director and the story is both funny and dramatic even if I'm still unsure whether it is true (or semi-true) or not.