Sam Rockwell plays the part of Chuck Barris and fits the role perfectly. The story, as based on the novel, begins with Chuck moving to Manhattan to become an NBC page, with hopeful dreams of making it big in television sooner than later. However, after being fired he moves to Philadelphia where he meets the cute Penny Pacino, played by Drew Barrymore, and eventually falls in love with her. He is approached by ABC productions to pitch a show called “The Dating Game”. However, when “Hootenanny” is chosen instead of his pilot, he is crushed.
Unhappy and drunken nights ensue. And after a skirmish at a bar, he is approached by CIA agent Jim Byrd, played by Clooney himself. He hires Chuck to work as an assassin for the CIA, and sends him to Mexico for a mission. He returns to find that his project – The Dating Game has been given a green light, and his girlfriend Penny has become somewhat of a hippie. The movie then traces Bariss’s life through different assignments throughout the globe, where he meets the lovely operative Patricia Watson, played by Julia Roberts, and later a German American agent named Keeler, played by Rutger Hauer. Keeler is shown to be captured by the KGB and released later during the West East spies’ exchange. But soon, a mole is discovered inside the CIA, and Keeler gets killed.
The movie simultaneously traces the success Chuck receives when he gets back home and is in production with new TV shows like “The Newlywed Game” and later “The Gong Show”, because of which he was a household name overnight, but also received immense criticism for having lowered the quality of American Television. Penny and Chuck move in together. Despite Penny’s attempts, Chuck has reservations at getting married.
Fame does unpleasant things to people, and Chuck Barris is shown to be yet another victim. When Byrd tells him about his parentage and the reason why he was hired by the CIA, Chuck begins to spiral out of control. Meanwhile, Byrd dies mysteriously. Chuck almost has a nervous breakdown on his show, after which he holes himself in his hotel room, from where Penny attempts unsuccessfully to convince him to return to California and get married.
Barris then tries to get his life back together. He confronts Patricia who is the mole and kills her. He moves back to California and marries Penny. During the wedding he confesses to her that he was a spy for the CIA. She only laughs, assuming incorrectly that he is joking. Finally, after many years, he is shown to be preparing for an interview for the film adaptation of his autobiography.
When asked whether he really was an assassin for the CIA, Barris refused to comment. But, eventually it doesn’t matter whether the story is true or not, as any autobiography becomes a piece of fiction, with the author subconsciously rewriting parts to appear heroic or blameless. Barris seems to blame himself for a lot, and thus he has an even greater need to appear heroic through his writings.
George Clooney has created a movie which does not only have an interesting script, but also is wonderful to look at, with two startling contrasts shown through the pop world of the 1960’s and 70’s and a cold spy world. Sam Rockwell has done an amazing job. All in all, it is a wonderful adaptation and depiction of the life of Chuck Barris. In spite of not having done superbly in the box office, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind still received respectful reviews.