Directed by: George Clooney
Written by:Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts
Released: July 24, 2003
Grade: B+

Chuck Barris has lived an interesting life.  He wrote a song called “Palisades Park” which climbed as high as third on the American charts.  He wrote three novels including “You and Me, Babe” which peaked in the top 10 on the New York Times best-seller list.  He created several televisions shows including “The Dating Game” (which was known as Perfect Match in Australia) and “The Gong Show”.  He was an award winning photographer.  On top of all of this, Barris also killed 33 people.

Such an unlikely tale is perfect big screen material and a powerful combination has taken on that responsibility.  In his directorial debut, George Clooney shows he has learned a great deal about what goes on behind the scenes whilst working in front of it.  His suave cinematography and obvious mixture of brightness and darkness are the perfect metaphors for the story.

Clooney is fortunate to have talented writer Charlie Kaufman adapt the screenplay from Barris’s autobiographical novel.  Kaufman is currently the most talented writer in film circles with two of his recent screenplays, Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, receiving world-wide acclaim and Academy Award nominations.  The screenplay does drag towards the end and is not as inventive as his previous works but it’s still enjoyable.

The underestimated Sam Rockwell was a surprising choice for the lead role when you consider that bigger Hollywood stars - Clooney, Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts – have the supporting roles.  Rockwell is a talented actor whom I first saw in 1997’s brilliant Lawn Dogs.  Subsequent parts have come in films such as The Green Mile and Galaxy Quest but this is his highest-profile role to date.  More will be coming soon I’m sure.

The film follows his life through the 1960s and 1970s.  Searching for success, he formed his own television production company and made a host of game shows that appealed to American audiences because of their “improvisational responses and reactions”.  On one such show, The Dating Game, a holiday was offered as the prize for the winning couple.  Barris would sometimes even accompany the couple as a chaperone.

His reasons for doing so were kept hidden from everyone - including his long-time girlfriend (Barrymore).  Barris had been contracted by a secret government agency to kill targets who posed a threat to security and stability in the United States.  Fitting “the profile”, he was selected and his regular job provided the perfect cover.  Many criticised Barris in the press because his tv’s shows were trashy and demeaning.  I can’t even imagine what their thoughts would have been if they known the other side to his life!