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A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

2012 | 87 min | R | 1.85:1

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III


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Theatrical release date

 08 February, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III


Screenshots from A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan IIl Blu-ray

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 17, 2013

Charlie Sheen hasn’t starred in a motion picture since the 2003 release of “Scary Movie 3,” with years of television and, ahem, other pursuits taking up his time in the interim. One would think that Sheen would crave an opportunity to play a character unlike himself, venturing out in the great creative unknown to embody heroism or villainy, or perhaps a little bit of both in a wildly taxing film that stretches the actor to his breaking point. Instead, Sheen drops into “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III,” a mildly surreal feature that finds the chemically obsessed one playing a chemically obsessed one, with a ferocious womanizing appetite and impish inclinations to spare. It’s not exactly a bold leap forward for Sheen, but, to his credit, he manages to survive a highly disorganized effort from fascinating helmer Roman Coppola.

Charles Swan III (Charlie Sheen) is a graphic designer in the 1970s, in charge of his own crumbling kingdom as album and book cover art jobs dry up and his spending habits increase. Charles also has to deal with the loss of beloved girlfriend Ivana (Katheryn Winnick), who’s leaving him after discovering lurid photos of old girlfriends in his belongings. Dismayed, Charles hopes to tear Ivana out his life, relying on support from musician pal Kirby (Jason Schwartzman), sister Izzy (Patricia Arquette), and distressed accountant Saul (Bill Murray). Prone to an active fantasy life, Charles weaves in and out of reality, imagining himself in different film genres and situations of survival, gradually losing touch with his painful reality.

Coppola (who recently co-wrote “Moonrise Kingdom”) last directed 2001’s “CQ,” a stylized ode to the groovy 1960s and seductive Parisian atmosphere. He graduates to the 1970s with “Charles Swan III,” leaping into the next decade, this time with a distinct Californian mood, imagining an era of album art conception and loose introspection, costumed in ill-fitting attire and situated under even more disagreeable hairstyles. It’s a comfort zone for Coppola to explore his imagination, with the visually adventurous filmmaker looking to conjure a baggy tone of playfulness, following the titular character as he weaves in and out of his own clouded headspace, failing to deal with imperative issues of personal responsibility as jealousy takes command. It’s a ripe concept to explore Charles’s delayed adolescence (he drives around in a car decorated with images of bacon and eggs) and his relationships with numerous women. However, Coppola isn’t interested in the grit. He’s simply out to scratch a few cinematic itches.

On his way to personal enlightenment, Charles enjoys numerous detours into fantasy, imagining himself as a cowboy riding along with Kirby, or secret targets of the S.S.B.B. (The Secret Society of Ball Busters), a league of menacing women out to destroy unforgivable men, finding Ivana and friend Victoria (Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a cameo) using a missile attack to wipe out Charles. There’s also a funeral sequence that transforms into a song and dance number, with Charles rising out of his grave to cavort with his old girlfriends in a dark cemetery (an intentional lighting choice to cover for Sheen’s dance double). We also spend time with Kirby as he works out his music and stand-up comedy routines, Saul as he confronts the possible dissolution of his marriage, and Izzy as she processes rejection from book publishers. The script is ripe for some absorbing psychological interpretation, but true to the title, all that remains are glimpses of these personalities, mere outlines to enjoy while significance takes a vacation so Coppola can have his fun with set design, cinematography, and locations. All of it evocative and warmly conceived, but lacking a dramatic foundation to keep the movie more than just a string of surface delights.

The cast comes ready to play, with Schwartzman lively as a creative force with a proud sense of Judaism, Murray summoning 25% ham as Charles’s miserable employee/confidant, and Arquette coming off atypically relaxed as Izzy deals with three kids and broken dreams. Sheen is less interesting, but at least he’s invested in the shenanigans, happily following wherever Coppola leads, which, for those keeping score at home, involves gorging manically on caviar, enduring a climatic puppet show, and concluding with a little trick photography on a beach, where the cast signs off as themselves for the camera (a neat idea). “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” doesn’t congeal and fails to extend an invitation to care about its story, but it’s an interesting misfire, with enough oddity and famous faces to hold attention, occasionally boosted by Coppola’s visual enthusiasm.

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Katheryn Winnick, Aubrey Plaza
Director: Roman Coppola

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