George Clooney made his directorial debut with an adaptation of Chuck Barris’ “unauthorized autobiography” Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. It’s an inventive blend of documentary and drama that is anchored in reality, but what is reality anyway? The screenplay was written by Charlie Kaufman who seems to have done quite well with his other adaptation, Adaptation and this script also breaks the fourth wall and is at least partially about filmmaking and perception as well. While Clooney is known as an actor (and he does act in the film), he pulls off an amazing film that suits one of the most innovative television producers. Sam Rockwell plays Barris and manages to capture many of his mannerisms and his look, especially in “The Gong Show” phase.
I was a fan of “The Gong Show” and watched it far too often. While criticized as lowering the tone of television, now the work of Barris seems middle to highbrow. Barris had a sense of fun and an obligation to entertain that came through in the shows he made. Now the cynicism and lack of originality in “reality” television and much of television in general means that the criticism aimed at Barris in the past doesn’t even seem to apply. A fascinating part of the DVD is a documentary that features an interview with Barris himself that explores more of the man and his work.