Friday, January 11, 2013

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III review

It's not ideal for me to watch a brand new film for the first time on VOD, but I made an exception here. "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" is the first 2013 release that I've seen this year... and I watched it through itunes. It's a film I'd been looking forward to for a number of reasons. First off, great cast: Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Patricia Arquette. If anything, it's a delightfully off-beat cast. Then you have writer/director Roman Coppola. Son of Francis Ford, brother of Sofia... he had been noted most recently for his collaborations with Wes Anderson. He co-wrote Darjeeling Limited with Wes and Jason Schwartzman, and last year, co-wrote Moonrise Kingdom with Wes.

So, even though Charles Swan is actually Roman Coppola's second film (his first film, CQ, came out in 2001), it'd be his first since all those Wes Anderson collaborations. We get to see what his sensibilities are; we can better understand what makes him unique. Has working with Wes Anderson changed him in anyway? It's like when Noah Baumbach co-write The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with Wes Anderson. It had been about seven years since Baumbach last directed his own film. Then, a year after Life Aquatic, out came The Squid and the Whale and a director's career was reborn. Through Squid, we were able to distinguish Baumbach's comic and dramatic sensibilities from Wes Anderson; Baumbach's darker, more character-driven. So what of Roman Coppola's film?

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is a lot of fun to watch. While it has a razor-thin plot and often tries to compensate with its elaborate fantasy sequences, its short 85-minute frame makes for a very slight, often engaging watch. The biggest problem with the film is Charlie Sheen's detached performance. While it certainly seemed like Charlie Sheen had fun with the rest of the cast, he just didn't seem all that wrapped up into this character. Many were wondering if the film and character was to be an extension of Charlie Sheen's own life, but this is Roman Coppola's film. Still, when casting someone like Charlie Sheen, you should know what you're getting into.

The plot is simple: Charles Swan is a graphic designer in the '70s whose life slowly starts to fall apart after his girlfriend leaves him. The biggest thing is the film seems so disinterested in the plot, which can be fun, but there are a lot of moments where it attempts to be a "regular movie" and the film's plot-related moments just feel completely forced. When the film moves past that and just does whatever the fuck it wants, it can be a fun ride. It makes you wish Coppola would just keep us out there in these fantasy worlds, instead of trying to tell such a hackneyed story.

It was fitting to watch this on itunes because I probably would've been more disappointed to see this in theaters. It just has such a tossed-off feeling to it. Then again, Roman Coppola puts some flourishes in there that is really fun and admirable. There's a great sense of mise-en-scene in the film and I get the feeling that when he works with Wes Anderson, he's the one who brings out the more playful side of filmmaker.

Seeing Charles Swan made me wish that Roman Coppola keeps collaborating with Wes. It also made me wish that he would actually try to tackle something more substantial. He can still go off on fantastical tangents, but with a story that's more fun and engaging. As it is, "A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III" can be fun to watch at times, but it feels too slight to be memorable.

Grade: C+

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