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Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, A
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Lacks The Focus Of Charlie Sheen's Live Shows. . ."
1 stars

Although the now-infamous shock comedy "Movie 43" was largely reviled by critics and ignored by audiences despite its star-studded cast, I have a suspicion that the makers of "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" must have been thrilled by its release and the reaction it received. Thanks to the utter revulsion that film inspired during its brief run, their own disaster will now at worst only go down as the second-most-scandalous waste of talent to hit the big screen this year.

Set in the 1970's, Charlie Sheen plays Charles Swan III, a celebrated graphic designer with a cheerfully hedonistic personal life that will remind viewers just slightly of the actor playing him. As the story opens, though, he is in the midst of a personal and professional tailspin brought on by girlfriend Ivana (Katheryn Winnick) breaking up with him in a jealous rage. This sends him into a personal and professional tailspin that lands him first in a swimming pool behind the wheel of a car and then in the hospital with what he fears is a heart attack.

While convalescing, he finds himself tormented by bizarre dreams and fantasies involving the breakup and they refuse to abate even after he is given a clean bill of health. While friends, family and co-workers alike all try to get him to move on and focus on work, he continues to obsess over the break-up even as he struggles to finally pull his life together. The trouble is that he can't decide whether he wants to win Ivana back or have her out of his life for good, even when he is standing outside her house.

Of course, this description, while accurate, fails to convey the actual experience of viewing it because it imposes a sense of order and logic to the material that the film never manages to achieve. Instead, it provides a scattershot collection of scenes and tones that never manage to achieve the level of hodgepodge. There are bits of weirdo comedy, relatively sincere drama and wild fantasy interspersed with other moments that almost feel voyeuristic in the way that they suggest Sheen's real-life troubles. All of them are thrown together so randomly that it feels as if editor just gave up early on in the proceedings. Believe me, you won't blame him.

The film was written and directed, in theory, by Roman Coppola, whose previous credits have included collaborations with Wes Anderson on the screenplays for "The Darjeeling Limited" and "Moonrise Kingdom" and his 2002 directorial debut "CQ." Those were all wonderful movies (and if you haven't seen "CQ," go out and track down a copy right this second) and it therefore boggles the mind that anyone who merely saw them--let alone work on them in key creative capacities--could be responsible for something as messy and unfocused as this.

Coppola is clearly trying to work in the same mode as Charlie Kaufman, whose best works, such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," combine surreal imagery and oddball humor with powerful emotional cores in ways that dazzle the eye and touch the heart in equal measure. He utilized such an approach with great success in "CQ" but this time around, his off-beat examination of a broken heart succumbs to a case of terminal whimsy after only a few minutes and just stays like that for its seemingly endless duration.

The flights of fancy, in many case inspired by other, better films, never take off and soon grow into becoming far too much of something that wasn't all that good in the first place. The more sincere moments are equally excruciating because our hero is both thoroughly unlikable (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and thoroughly uninteresting (which is almost always a bad thing). Watching these two failed approaches fighting a losing battle allows moviegoers the long-awaited chance to experience what a film by the late Bob Fosse (whose "Lenny" and "All That Jazz" are quoted extensively here) might have been like if only Fosse had been a clueless hack.

The most shocking thing about "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" is the amount of talent that signed on to take part in what is essentially an elaborate home movie made for the private amusement of Coppola and Sheen. Among those taking part are Jason Schwartzman, Patricia Arquette, Aubrey Plaza, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chicago musician Liam Hayes and the great Bill Murray. This list of performers may not quite outdo "Movie 43" in terms of numbers but one would think that a film including such distinct personalities would have to be at least slightly intriguing, if only by default, but that is sadly not the case here.

Since many of these people have some prior personal or professional connection to Coppola, I guess it isn't much of a surprise to see them turn up but what is kind of surprising that he wouldn't at least meet them halfway by giving them something of interest to do. Even Murray, who has built a second career out of droll supporting turns stretching as far back as "Tootsie," is unable to generate much in the way of laughs or excitement, even during a dream sequence where he is made to look and sound like John Wayne in "Rio Bravo." That sounds like a surefire bit but of all the possibilities inherent in the idea of Murray embodying John T. Chance, this film fails to capitalize on any of them.

My guess is that everyone involved with "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III"--Coppola included--signed on because they are friends and admirers of Charlie Sheen (whose undeniable charisma and talent still manage to shine through at times against all odds) and realize that he is less likely to succumb to his well-documented excesses as long as he is keeping busy. If that is the case, that is a noble sentiment indeed but if so, it is also more than a little ironic since it is the movie itself that was clearly in need of an intervention.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24696&reviewer=389
originally posted: 02/14/13 22:32:10
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  08-Feb-2013 (R)
  DVD: 14-May-2013



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