Review: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
REVIEW: A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III was a film I really wanted to like. Charlie Sheen gets a bad rap- not only from his very public meltdown, but also from years spent on sitcoms like TWO & A HALF MEN, and ANGER MANAGEMENT. We all tend to forget that for a while, Sheen was a really good dramatic actor. His performances in PLATOON, and WALL STREET hold up beautifully, and I'd argue his cameo in MONEY NEVER SLEEPS was the best part of that film. Heck- even his comedies, like HOT SHOTS were funny as hell. The guy has presence, and charisma. Put him together with Roman Coppola, who directed the underrated CQ, and I assumed you'd get a really cool flick.
Indeed, A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III might seem like a cool flick to some. For me, it was kind of an ordeal. It seems like Coppola was trying to make a riff on Fellini's 8 1/2, with the ladies man director played by Marcello Mastroianni being replaced by the graphic designer played by Sheen. Like Mastroianni, Sheen constantly wears sunglasses (even in a hospital bed), and is susceptible to flights of fantasy, where he re-imagines himself and his friends as cowboys being hunted by the women in his life- re-imagined as Indians, or in some cheesy euro-space epic. These fantasy segments tend to dominate what little story there is, and sure enough- they allow Coppola to go full-on into the retro-camp vibe he used in CQ. They look cool (Nick Beal's cinematography is excellent), but the problem is that they try really hard to be funny or clever, and merely come off as cheesy and stale.
This wouldn't be a fatal flaw if at least the A-story, being Swan's struggle to rebound from his failed relationship, was good- but while Sheen is pretty solid in this tailor-made role, you won't care about Swan or his problems. Like Sheen himself, Swan enjoys his chemicals, partying, and women- and while it's fun to see him get up to some mischief, the appeal wears off when you realize the story is going nowhere.
The best thing about SWAN is Bill Murray, who- even in the worst films, manages to be memorable. Here, he plays Swan's business manager, who- like Swan, is dealing with his own lady-troubles. He also figures significantly into Swan's fantasies, along with Jason Schwartzman, who plays Swan's best pal- who seems to be some kind of hybrid comedian-musician (and sports a hideous seventies perm-beard combo).
One of the few other things I really liked about CHARLIE SWAN was the song score by Liam Hayes- which, while I was watching the film, I actually thought was music from the era- but is original. Hayes breaks the fourth wall and introduces himself during the end credits- and I will say that CHARLES SWAN has got me interested in checking out his stuff.
I don't especially enjoy giving movies like A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III bad reviews, as I like the people involved (including Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aubrey Plaza- who show up in small parts), the era it depicts, and Roman Coppola's other work. But- I can't deny that right from the start, SWAN struck a sour note for me, and eventually became a real endurance test to sit through- even at barely eighty minutes. There's no doubt in my mind that SWAN will find some fans, and that it might pick up some kind of cult following, but I really didn't care for it- at all. Stay home and rent 8 1/2 instead. It's pretty much the same story, just done a heck of a lot better.
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