A bit too arch
I liked this. I thought it was very much a ‘first-time director’ effort with some gimmicky bits that detract from rather than add to the overall piece- and you don’t really need that when it’s a Charlie Kaufman script- but I enjoyed it a lot.
Sam Rockwell plays, as he often does, the role with great relish. It’s not quite hammy, but it is certainly theatrical. He also exposes his buttocks more than champion bottom-flasher Jean-Claude Van Damme has ever managed in a single film. He has a ball. In fact, it looks like everyone has a ball- except Clooney whose added responsibility seems to carry over into his role resulting in him underplaying a little too much against Rockwell and being kind of shut out like white noise. His sub-Cary Grant comedy gurning would be out of place here but he could still benefit from ramping it up a little.
From memory it was about this point that Julia Roberts started to be considered ‘interesting’ after proving she could carry a film in Erin Brockovich (I haven’t seen that, I’m trusting reputations) but I didn’t see too much from her here to shout about. Likewise Drew Barrymore is fun playing within herself. And that’s okay because it all works fine, the film is loose and rolls along in a carefree manner which is suited to the material- this is really no place for histronics after all.
The concept is fantastic, obviously, playing the fantastical material straight works and even the talking heads bits- which shouldn’t work at all given the nature of the piece- contribute something. But it isn’t quite right. Clooney would follow this with the far superior Goodnight and Good Luck, a weightier film altogether which perhaps suits him better. It’s just a gut feeling and I should know better than to listen to gut feelings, but I got the impression that some of the fun stuff here- the mention of Rosemary Clooney, the weird colourised cinematography, the seriously outlandish costume and sets- was a bit too arch and a bit too forced. It’s almost like an inferior version of Terry Gilliam’s underrated Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. But I enjoyed it, that’s what matters. 5/10