The trailer for Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III sells a film that at the least would be an incredible car crash to watch unfold with its odd cast and surrealist nature. Charlie Sheen in a starring role next to Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman in a weird hybrid of Wes Anderson and Charlie Kaufman sounds intriguing at the least. And it is intriguing but once the intrigue is fed reality the seams start to show.
Charles Sheen is Charles Swan, an eccentric advertising guy with relationship issues. Basically he’s reeling from being dumped by his lady (Katheryn Winnick) and due to his shock and stress he bounces in and out of a dream state. The goal apparently is to show Mr. Swan looking at his life from the outside but in reality it’s about allowing the filmmaker a way to unload a ton of visual gags and moments without having to build the narrative bridge to justify them. It’s a technique that has led to great films. Imagine The Big Lebowski without its dream sequences. Imagine Being John Malkovich [which featured great Charlie Sheen work] told in a straightforward manner. Unfortunately this feels like an impostor. Roman Coppola has a good eye, is able to shoot film that pops and his co-writing with Wes Anderson has led to some fantastic work but here separated from his more well-known collaborators the results feel sophomoric and faux. You can’t just give Jason Schwartzman an afro and Luke Wilson’s costumes from The Royal Tenenbaums and deliver something that registers after the sight gag wears off. Bill Murray as a cowboy is funny to look at but after the initial joy washes over the character needs to have something interesting to say. And that is where A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III really suffers: There’s virtually nothing interesting being said. It’s not quotable. It’s not especially sharp. It uses musical cues and outlandish visuals as a crutch at every turn and the music in particular really wears a viewer down. Film is not a medium to show off your eclectic tastes. Or one that typically rewards one idea recycled over and over.
This new gaunt and leathery version of Charlie Sheen isn’t as easy to spend time with either. The actor goes through the motions and there’s no winking at the camera Tiger Blood nonsense. He’s really acting and his character gets to veer between being lovesick, loony, and sad on a journey that involves a dance sequence and a car crash but it’s just hollow. There are a few fun moments, especially when Swan’s mind creates these dangerous organizations of women out to get him. It helps too when Scott Pilgrim exports Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Aubrey Plaza are involved. There’s probably a really fresh and fun movie a rewrite or edit away. It’s just not here.
It almost feels like a feature length satire from a movie awards show. Even though it’s easy to draw a parallel between the characters of Charles Swan and Charles Sheen and their respective baggage, there’s not enough there to make A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III worth a recommendation even on the shlock factor alone. One small success: It’s nice to see Patricia Arquette here and she brings a lot of heart and warmth to a rather cold affair.
A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is a whiff.
Where does Roman Coppola rank in the Coppola directing pantheon?
Between Paperbutt Coppola and Zeppo Coppola. Sofia and Francis Ford need not worry.
What’s it like having Carlos Estevez as a leading man post-meltdown?
Distracting. I am a big fan of much of Charlie’s body of work and am a severe apologist for The Rookie, The Arrival, and Terminal Velocity. He’s become such a goofy version of himself that it’s hard to fully enjoy him even though he’s giving it his all and still has his chops. I’m a big believer that you should never know a celebrity too well. You should never have that much access to someone you don’t know and it hurts Mr. Sheen’s ability to ever be taken all that seriously again. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.
But the car with the bacon and eggs on the sides is adorable!
I’m not arguing with you. It is adorable.
Who is the audience for this movie?
Hipsters? Young people who love Wes Anderson movies but aren’t able to isolate what makes them special? The Coppola family? Fans of breakfast cars? People who find Anger Management funny? Now I’m being facetious. No one finds that shit funny.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.