Directed by: Roman Coppola
Premise: The head of an advertising agency (Charlie Sheen) goes into a tailspin following his breakup with his girlfriend.
What Works: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is distinguished by a unique look. The movie alternates between a realistically styled story of a man struggling through a breakup and surrealistic fantasy sequences in which Charles Swan imagines himself as a hero. The fantasy set pieces are the movie’s highpoint and in these sections the picture often has the absurd consistency of a dream. Rather than using a lot of familiar computer generated imagery, the filmmakers of Inside the Mind of Charles Swan use practical gags or animated effects that give the movie a deliberately kitschy and retro feel.
What Doesn’t: As good as the fantasy sequences are, they don’t come often enough nor are they impactful or meaningful enough to save this movie. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III only runs eighty-six minutes but it feels about double that length because the movie is comprised of long periods of flat drama interrupted by brief flourishes of style with very little substance. The filmmaking style of Inside the Mind of Charles Swan comes across as a weak imitation of Wes Anderson but with none of Anderson’s energy, intelligence, flair, or creative control. The problem is found in the central character, who isn’t interesting at all. There is nothing to him beyond what we see. The fantasy sequences don’t reveal very much about the title character that isn’t already obvious from the scenes taking place in reality. There is nothing symbolic about the imagery and all the fantasy sequences do is embolden the character’s already inflated ego. Charlie Sheen is cast as Charles Swan and Sheen is both the film’s greatest asset and its Achilles Heal. Sheen’s public persona as an over-privileged, drunk, misogynistic, egomaniac suits the character of Charles Swan but because Swan is such a one-note character there is nothing distinguishing the actor from his part and the movie comes across like Charlie Sheen’s other movie and television roles in which he plays a version of his tabloid self. And like Sheen’s similar roles, Inside the Mind of Charles Swan comes very close to celebrating its title character’s (and the actor’s) sins. In the premise of the movie, Swan’s girlfriend leaves him because she comes to the realization that he is an awful boyfriend. Instead of sending Swan on a journey of self-destruction or discovery or playing out his narcissism in the mode of a character study, the filmmakers of Inside the Mind of Charles Swan just allow the character to lay around feeling sorry for himself and they often indulge his self-pity. The moviemakers aren’t ridiculing his undue sense of privilege; they are vindicating it. This creates a rotten core around which the rest of the movie is built and the lack of epiphany both on the part of the title character and the viewer makes this whole movie a very empty experience. It is curiously self-aware and yet far too self-indulgent. The filmmaking excess that pervades Inside the Mind of Charles Swan is also evidenced in its roster of supporting players, including Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Aubrey Plaza. Few films have accomplished so little with such a talented cast.
Bottom Line: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III aspires to movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Young Adult but it falls far short. The filmmakers want to explore the mind of an artist but their central character has nothing worthy of discovery in his head.
Episode: #427 (February 17, 2013)