Chuck Barris created the hit US TV shows that inspired Blind Date and Mr and Mrs, as well as The Gong Show, a talent competition for the talentless. People hated the show, and when Barris turned it into a movie it bombed so definitively he retired from the biz and wrote 'an unauthorised autobiography', a paranoid schizophrenic comic novel in which he confessed to a double life as a CIA hitman. The book is a put-on that flirts with our prurient interest in celebrity, but it's crazy enough to make you wonder if there's a grain of truth buried there. Clooney's entertainingly eccentric film (adapted by Charle Kaufman from Barris' novel) simply goes along for the ride. Like A Beautiful Mind, it replays the Cold War as a psychotic projection, but where Ron Howard's Oscar winner complacently opted for schmaltz, Clooney's hip, flip riposte looks for the funny side of existential angst. Brimming with slightly self-conscious directorial panache, the movie zips between nearly three decades, fantasy and reality without ever really deciding how seriously it wants to take itself. Still well worth seeing, though, for curiosity value, star cameos, and Rockwell's surprisingly sympathetic killer turn.
Cast and crew
Robert John Burke