Monday, June 10, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2013) **½

R, 86 min.
Director/Writer: Roman Coppola
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Katheryn Winnick, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Aubrey Plaza, Dermot Mulroney, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

I am a huge fan of Roman Coppola’s directorial debut, 2001’s little seen “CQ”. He’s co-written a couple of Wes Anderson’s features, including last year’s brilliant “Moonrise Kingdom”. He’s worked as a second unit director on most of his sister Sofia’s films and all of his father Francis’s later career movies since “Dracula”. He has a unique cinematic mind that has me anxious to see anything he’s involved with.

So it was with disappointment that I read early this year that his second directing effort was getting terrible reviews. It was one of those art films that I was eagerly awaiting this year that had suddenly become a deflated balloon. So, I waited for video. Now, it is available for anyone to see at home and it turns out that it isn’t so terrible; it’s just terribly disappointing. The entire project lacks the ambition it requires to pull it off.

I defer to the plot synopsis found at “A graphic designer's enviable life slides into despair when his girlfriend breaks up with him.” OK, there’s nothing wrong with that, but unlike most one-sentence plot synopses, that really is all there is to this movie. Charlie Sheen plays the titular Charles Swan. He’s fine in the role. He carries the movie well, but there really isn’t that much to carry here is there? I couldn’t help but thinking that he’s really a little too old to be so caught up in a romance like a high school kid.

The production design is brilliant. The designers give the film a distinct classic Hollywood feel even though it takes place today. The main character is a renowned graphic designer, and that is reflected in every frame of the film. However, such flashy production and costume designs really deserve snappy dialogue to go with it. I can imagine something from the mind of Diablo Cody, but Coppola’s script has no witty repartee, no snap, no style. Without that, this is just a sad account of a man who has trouble getting over a break up. It’s not something worth the cinematic style that encompasses it.

This does not worry me about the ability of Coppola as a filmmaker. I still think he holds the same talent as his sister and father. Perhaps he waited too long between projects. Perhaps he needs a screenplay collaborator. He’s still a gifted director, who I hope has many more movies in his future.

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