Film Review: A GLIMPSE INSIDE THE MIND OF CHARLES SWAN III (directed by Roman Coppola)

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by Jason Rohrer on January 21, 2013

in Film

SWAN IN LOVE

More than most families, the Coppolas deserve credit for keeping Hollywood honest.  Roman Coppola has written and/or produced a couple of Wes Anderson movies, as well as assistant directing for his more successful father and sister and creating his own independent work.  In the fight against corporate banality he is one of the good guys.  And consistent with his body of work to date, his second feature, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, feels like very personal storytelling.  But personal to whom?  Bearing an inordinate number of Wes Anderson’s hallmarks (its cast, its sweeping and abruptly truncated musical cues, its wrap-up including the entire cast marching into celebratory meta-reality, many more), Glimpse feels less like an original work than a pastiche cribbed from that other filmmaker’s discarded notes.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan IIIStarring the unengaging shell of Charlie Sheen as Charlie Swan, Glimpse rather aimlessly follows the mid-life crises and romantic fantasies of a rich Lothario.  Not surprisingly, Sheen’s character is intemperate in his habits of consumption, from tobacco to much younger women; but not enough is made of the connection between actor and role, or too much is made of it, or something.  In any case this film does not make a strong case for the human-interest value in watching a famous person play a version of himself both Bowdlerized and downsized.  It makes a better pitch for the sad truth that Mr. Sheen has lived in such a way as to make him unfit for any role but a parody of himself.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan IIIAnd although Swan’s episodic foibles might have made an interesting short story, in this movie they do not cohere into a sustained narrative.  Swan has amusing friends, well played by Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman (another Coppola), and an exasperated sister (Patricia Arquette), and a fleeing ex-lover (Katheryn Winnick), all of whom in some manner enable the man to behave like a 50-year-old boy.  He drives his car into swimming pools; he spies on his ex; he drinks too much.  All this acting-out sounds like a nice fit for a Kevin James movie.  Be grateful it’s not, because we need another Kevin James movie like we need another Kevin James.  But as insulting as that version probably would be to its audience and to humanity in general, it would almost certainly be more entertaining than this one, with its arch dialogue and high-end performances and precious camera angles amounting to a copy of a copy.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan IIIGlimpse is not exactly boring.  There’s too much going on for that; and when Mr. Coppola quotes from Bob Fosse’s Lenny, for instance, or from Paul Mazursky’s Blume in Love, well, that’s something.  But when Wes Anderson makes a clever, devoutly personal movie, it’s executed with such specificity, conviction, and taste that one either embraces it or runs away within minutes.  Such is not possible with this film, both because its script lacks those qualities and because its director is not Wes Anderson.  Some film artists work best in a subsidiary role within the great collaborative medium, and until Mr. Coppola discovers his own idiom, he will much more successfully serve his art as a member of the production than as its leader.

Jason Rohrer’s Stage and Cinema review of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

click here for Mr. Rohrer’s commentary on Wes Anderson

photos courtesy American Zoetrope

A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
American Zoetrope
USA, 85 min.
in limited American release February 8, 2013
available before theaters on VOD at http://www.filmbuff.com/

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