11 January 2013 | StevePulaski
An exercise in poor neurology
The last time I was baffled by a film to this degree I had just sat through Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, a film to this day I can not extract anything from. Ironically, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, the director of A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III have worked on a few projects together and, possibly as a result, the film feels half-baked, incomplete, and inherently maddening, doing one of things that Wes Anderson did as well but at least in a somewhat bearable manner; draw its events brighter and more noticeable than the characters involved in them.
Our title character is played by Charlie Sheen, who presumably filmed this around that time where he wasn't a media figure for his outspoken drug use any longer and he was pretty much disregarded by all the public too as yesterday's news. I assume that because I'm sure it this film would've been swarmed with publicity at the time of its production, because anything Sheen seemed to do, rather it was create a Twitter account or make a disposable statement made headlines.
Sheen embodies without a doubt, the weirdest character of his career; an inconsistent graphic designer who has just been left by the love of his moment Ivana (Katheryn Winnick), and is feeling mixed emotions, frequenting suffering from terrors and surrealist fever dreams. His reality becomes twisted and indistinct, as things do not seem to have a time-frame and characters pop in and out with no rhyme or reason.
This is one of the least consistent films I've seen in a long time. A subplot, if you can call it that because the story's main plot isn't even worthy of the description of a plot, involved Jason Schwartzman's Kirby, an aspiring musician, who wants Charles to make him an album cover, but both men lack inspiration in their clearly eclectic lives.
I can't help but feel that this was the movie that Wes Anderson dreamed up but quickly abandoned when he discovered the plot didn't go anywhere quickly. Anderson is known for concocting whimsical setups, an immensely quirky environment, and framing and articulating his films' settings with impenetrable beauty and artistry. What he often neglects, although this hasn't been seen recently with his newest films The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom, is his characterization and situations, which are often underdeveloped or simply archetypes we have a difficult time feeling for. Writer/director/producer Coppola continues to persistently throw set pieces, situations, and stunt casting at the story, none of it generating any true excitement or nourishment for his audience members. The whole film plays as one long, tedious, incoherent stage show that goes nowhere quickly and doesn't seem to care.
Yet through all the mundane setups and unworthy payoffs, I found enjoyment in this film, mainly coming from Sheen, who is a charming screen presence here, playing a womanizing character, with a bit more of a heart and attitude than the usual snobs. But his character is still an undeveloped archetype we feel almost nothing for. And when the film gives us a maddening ending that breaks the fourth wall, we feel that either Coppola couldn't fittingly end the story or he simply got tired of the material.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is, to put it simply, a mess of sizable proportions. If the film had turned its quirkiness meter about six notches down, and put as much heavy focus on its story continuity and characters as it does with detail and look, there would be a film here with some trajectory and formation rather than just scene after scene of disposable weirdness. I read that Roman Coppola hopes that those who have suffered through a bad breakup in the past or have been through rough relationships could sympathize with Charles Swan III. I'd believe that after they see this film, they'll feel that relationships are a waste of time and should get back to work.
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, Katheryn Winnick, Bill Murray, Aubrey Plaza, Patricia Arquette, Dermot Mulroney, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Directed by: Roman Coppola.