A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2012)

(On Cable TV, June 2014) Charlie Sheen and self-indulgence go really well together, but there’s a difference between showing it in tabloid headlines and seeing it in a full-length feature film. Billed as a comedy, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III stars Sheen as a circa-1970s graphic designer dealing with the abrupt departure of his latest girlfriend. Delusions, flights of fancy, anxiety attacks, crippling doubt all follow, inevitably leading to wacky despair-fueled hijinks and acceptance of sorts. It’s as good as any excuse to prop the Charlie Sheen persona as a romantic lead, and for writer/director Roman Copolla to do whatever he wants with the tools of cinema. (It all culminates, somewhat amusingly, into an intensely self-reflective final shot in which the actors name their characters and the artifices of filming are revealed all the way to a mirror shot of the director and camera operator.) As a light-hearted romp playing with cherished visuals, competent actors in small roles (including Bill Murray, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Schwartzman and Patricia Arquette), A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III isn’t without occasional interest. It does not, however, coalesce into something more meaningful that scattered vignettes and Sheen playing some idealized version of himself. (Or, rather, some idealized version of what other people should be thinking about himself.) I’ll admit that it’s easy to transfer any feelings about Sheen-the-persona onto Swan-the-character, but then again the film makes it easy to do so. I don’t happen to particularly like the Sheen persona (although, like many others, I find it unexplainably compelling), and that may explain a decidedly tepid reaction to the film despite by usual fondness for meta-cinematographic tricks and showy set-pieces. At best, it’s a surreal, strange and kind-of-wonderful film. But for anyone even remotely aware of Sheen’s antics over the past few years, it definitely takes a special state of mind to go past the misogyny, self-adulation and conscious myth-making at play here.

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