Movie Review: A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2013
Directed by: Roman Coppola
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
At first glance, "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" seems like the perfect vehicle for Charlie Sheen, whose 2011 public meltdown makes him a prime candidate for the seemingly broken title character. "Charles Swan III" features a Sheen-like main character whose life revolves around partying, women, broken promises, and missed deadlines. Directed by Roman Coppola, a man who knows a thing or two about celebrity, the film seems to be trying for some kind of insightful satire. Instead, the film becomes a mix of navel gazing and inside jokes that starts out strong but ultimately misses the mark for anyone who isn't a part of the film's cast and crew.
The plot is relatively straightforward, giving viewers a look into the lifestyle of Charles Swan III. The graphic designer has a beautiful girlfriend named Ivana (Katheryn Winnick), who leaves Swan due to his womanizing ways. Heading towards a breakdown, Swan begins to rethink his life through a series of daydreams that comes across as mediocre sketches featuring a bevy of ex-girlfriends and compatriots in ludicrous situations. Designed to give an insight into the psychology behind Swan, the film's vignettes end up coming across like the dreams of a child. While that may be the point, it hurts the film's narrative, especially since there's not much meat behind the glitz and glamour. There's also a subplot about Swan and his failing career that only delays an inevitable dream interlude while failing to provide anything of interest to the audience.
Part of the problem is Roman Coppola's winking direction. Coming off of a successful writing collaboration with Wes Anderson on "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Darjeeling Limited," Coppola is expected to bring a bit of the whimsy and heart that were present in both films to "Charles Swan III." Instead, the audience gets a comedy that is all flash and no substance. Coppola is a visual master who gives viewers a stylized version of Los Angeles, beautiful women, and dream sequences that are surreal. However, none of these elements are seen in the movie. By the end of the film, the character of Charles Swan hasn't moved from where he was in the first act of the film.
If there is a bright spot in the movie, it's Charlie Sheen. People forget that this guy can act, having been a major part of the success of films like "Platoon" and "Wall Street."
Sheen makes a real attempt to make the film work, tapping into some of those psychological underpinnings that led to his real-life issues. The problem, however, is that there isn't enough weight in the script. Sheen is fine, but his moping never has an endgame. Instead, the audience is taken through several dream sequences and a finale that feels more like the end of a first act than a complete movie.
Costars Jason Schwatzman and Bill Murray, both successful in Coppola's screenwriting efforts, are positively wasted in this film. Schwartzman plays Swan's friend Kirby, a Lenny Bruce-inspired comic, who comes across as a one-joke swingin' '70s satire. It feels like an attempt to mimic the character of Rob from "Annie Hall," but it lacks actor Tony Roberts' subtlety and Woody Allen's wit. Meanwhile, Murray is flat out wasted as Saul, Swan's business manager. He appears out of nowhere in a dream sequence and ends up just being there for Swan's real-life adventures. With little characterization to speak of, Saul becomes more of a distraction, since the audience wants and expects some of that deadpan wit that Murray is known for. It's too bad because both of these actors are funny and insightful and can do wonders with a meaty script. Knowing about their work in the recent "Moonrise Kingdom" film, anyone can say that Coppola has missed an opportunity to make the actors shine in this movie.
Ultimately, "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" is a nice try, but it doesn't quite get to where it needs to be. While Sheen keeps the film afloat, there are too many inside jokes, winks, and nods to make it fun for anyone who wasn't a part of the cast and crew. Even the breaking of the fourth wall at the end of the film feels forced and cute, as if the filmmakers realized their film needed something to distract from the lack of substance. At 86 minutes, "Charles Swan III" should be a lean and mean comedy; instead, it doesn't even have the depth to sustain a full-length movie.