Judge Clark Douglas advises you to look away.
Handsome. Brilliant. Heartbroken.
The celebrity comeback vehicle is an interesting thing. Though society loves nothing more than to watch a megastar crumble in the midst of scandal or personal problems, we also tend to have pretty short-term memories when it comes to that sort of thing. Once the scandal cycle has run its course, we suddenly become pretty open to the idea of giving those disgraced celebrities a chance to reclaim their mantle (as I write this, Robert Downey, Jr. is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and Mark Sanford has just won a major election in South Carolina—yes, Virginia, there is a celebrity clause).
As I've noted in the past, I've always felt that a film should be judged on its own merits and that actors should be graded on their ability to act rather than on their ability to maintain a successful personal life. However, every now and then one comes across an actor whose public image becomes damn near inseparable from his/her onscreen persona. Enter Charlie Sheen as the title character of Roman Coppola's A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. Whoever this character is supposed to be, he's been thoroughly consumed by the tiger blood-consuming egomaniac that Mr. Sheen has become.
Let's take a look at the set-up. Charles works for an advertising agency, and his latest task is designing a new album cover for his friend Kirby (Jason Schwartzman, Bored to Death). Unfortunately, he's been having trouble concentrating due to a recent break-up with his girlfriend Ivana (Katheryn Winnick, Love and Other Drugs). True, the break-up was Charles' own fault—he was keeping nude photographs of his many ex-girlfriends around the house—but he's still a bit heartsick over the whole thing. Through a series of scenes that blur the line between fantasy and reality, Charles attempts to come to terms with his assorted problems and find forgiveness from the women he's wronged.
So yeah, there's intentionally a lot of Charlie Sheen in Charles Swan (he even goes by "Charlie" now and then). Even so, Charles is supposedly a guilt-ridden man who feels a need to seek forgiveness, whereas Charlie is an impossibly vain actor running a victory lap for the entire duration of his new comeback vehicle. Mr. Sheen is such a powerful figure that he overpowers Mr. Swan. Sheen never comes across as a man who's legitimately sorry for anything; there's an arrogant self-satisfaction to his performance even during his big moments of repentance. During a third-act scene in which he pours his heart out to another character, we don't see a broken man trying to repair a relationship, we see a smug performer convinced that he's nailing his big scene. If this is the best Sheen can muster these days (and there's no reason to think otherwise, since he was never really much of an actor), then I suppose it's for the best that he's limiting himself to playing either himself or versions of himself in everything he appears in (Madea's Witness Protection, Scary Movie 5, Anger Management). The biggest mistake A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III makes is attempting to add a shade of "sympathetic human being" to its Sheen-esque figure.
Not that the movie is flawless in every other area, mind you. It's clear that Coppola (son of Francis Ford) is an ambitious director with a flair for nifty visual touches, but he's made a movie which makes me feel how people who hate Wes Anderson movies must feel. The film is an abundance of quirks signifying very little, from Sheen's wacky vehicle (which features bacon on one side and eggs on the other) to a giant hot dog sofa to a scene in which Sheen and Schwartzman are attacked by a group of models dressed in Native American-themed lingerie (surely the film was shot before the recent Victoria's Secret scandal). At least he's making an effort at keeping viewers interested, but this is an awfully long 85 minutes.
The other cast members aren't quite as bad as Sheen, but they're not particularly inspired, either. Bill Murray is one of the most reliable actors out there, but this time around he looks as if he'd rather be doing anything else. The female characters are thinly-written, leaving actresses like Patricia Arquette (True Romance) with little to do. The only one who manages to provide a few laughs is Jason Schwartzman, who at least seems to be putting in a genuine effort to make this thing entertaining.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (Blu-ray) has received a decent 1080p/1.85:1 transfer that offers exceptional detail throughout. Heaven knows that looking at the inventive production design is one of the few tolerable aspects of viewing the film, so I suppose that's a good thing. It's not a knockout by any means, but it gets the job done nicely. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is fine, though the mixing isn't quite as smooth as I'd like. The songs can be a bit distracting at times, but that's to be expected in a scattershot flick like this. Supplements include a commentary with Coppola and two decent featurettes: "A Glimpse Behind the Glimpse" (25 minutes) and "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles White III" (12 minutes).
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