If you imagine the film 8 ½ , but directed by Wes Anderson and with all the heart and soul stripped out of it, and with the cast and crew coked out of their minds, you would come close to understanding what it feels like to watch A Glimpse Inside The Mind Of Charles Swan III.
With a title of this grandeur, especially when names like Coppola, Sheen, Murray, Schwartzman, and Arquette are associated with it, and there’s a clear nod to Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, one would expect an equally grand and spectacular experience. However, what we get is a film with a single, simple narrative. The plot revolves around Charles Swan a graphic designer who gets dumped by his girlfriend, Ivana, when she discovers pornographic photographs of his former lovers stuffed in a drawer. In an effort to cleanse, or perhaps avenge himself of Ivana (played by Katheryn Winnick), Swan attempts to throw her shoes over a cliff, down which he subsequently falls and is brought to a hospital for treatment of body and soul.
Charlie Sheen plays the womanizing titular character, who, in addition to recovering from his physical injuries at the hospital, is receiving help for drug-related health issues and is in therapy to deal with his debaucherous lifestyle (sound familiar?). The audience is treated to Swan’s introspection through the manifestation of psychedelic memories and dreams.
The first of these dream sequences depict Swan’s funeral in which only the women in his life are in attendance and during which Swan rises out of his grave and proceeds to tango with these women. And it only gets more bizarre from there.
In other sketches, Swan gets attacked by his former lovers in a league they have formed, in his imagination, called the S.S.B.B. (Secret Society of Ball-Busters), who while dressed as sexy navy officers attempt to launch a missile attack on him. In another sequence they are dressed as sexy native-american women riding feathered horses with bows and arrows, trying to capture him.
Throughout his journey of self-examination, Swan is supported by his sister played by Patricia Arquette, his friend and client Kirby (Jason Schwartzman) and his accountant Saul (Bill Murray). While these actors do indeed bring a warmth much needed amidst this wild onscreen trip, their roles add next to nothing to the plot, rendering their characters inexplicable.
In fact, the entire production makes one feel as if they had just walked in on a private pot session between these actors and their directorial captain, Roman Coppola. This unwelcoming feeling comes from what seems to be fragmented and incohesive visual depictions of a simple story made up of random cellulose pieces put haphazardly together. Obvious signifiers such as Swan’s T-shirt which features his own name, kitsch ‘70s ambiance and stock wardrobes seem quite indulgent just to tell a few inside jokes and draw parallels between Sheen and Swan.
The only constant is the hyper Wes Anderson-style with which this film is made. Coppola, who co-wrote The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom with the whimsical Anderson, achieves none of the charm despite a Pink Floyd-inspired musical score, saturated colours, picturesque scenery and an impressive array of ‘70s paraphernalia. The film lacks humour, depth and an actual emotional study of Charles Swan; although it would be be negligent not to mention that Sheen does indeed play Swan’s character to perfection. Quelle surprise!
A Glimpse Into The Mind Of Charles Swan III opens in Canadian theatres on Feb. 15.