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A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III

What director Roman Coppola sets out to do in his directorial debut, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, is sincerely interesting: the tangible exploration of a character's psyche — visualizations of the breakdown of his conscious thought, literal journeys through his fears and fantasies — is a fun, and intriguing idea… when applied to a character whose psyche is worth exploring.

Unfortunately, in Charles Swan, Coppola gives us someone who warrants little sympathy, who boasts little dynamism. In fact, Swan (played by Charlie Sheen, embracing a good deal of the hedonistic character flaws with which the actor has been associated over the past couple of years) would probably disgust us if he were able to fuel that degree of passion. Instead, the womanizing drunkard comes off as boring, with the film hoping that his fast-and-loose lifestyle will stand in for genuine charisma and interesting characterization. As we delve deep into the brain of Sheen's onscreen incarnation, we find ourselves faced with nothing too deep at all:

Here's a man who claims to like women (albeit with a propensity to treat them poorly), who has a taste for the sauce, and whose elegant manor — his success as a graphic designer for records has earned him a life of hedonistic prosperity — would incite envy in many the average joe. But beyond that, Swan seems bankrupt of value. His emotional journey transports him from a narcissism that depresses him to a narcissism in which he can revel; his learning experiences are few and far between, his deconstruction seems to be skirted entirely. As the film seems to lend most of its attention to style and delivery, it forgets to imbue the subject of its strong concept with anything worthwhile.

But on the subject of style, Coppola has a good deal of fun, which translates well to the audience. An apparent aficionado for the cinema of the 1970s, the director's feature not only emulates the moods and behaviors of the decade, but the aesthetic choices of its big-screen art. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III feels like a film from the '70s — in style, this is triumphant. In its approbation of Swan's behaviors (the film never seems to condemn his misogyny, instead celebrating Swan's ego hike as a victory for "heartbroken" men everywhere), this is highly unfortunate.

The film is not devoid of fun, mostly allowing its talented supporting players to supply the comedy: the shticks of Jason Schwartzman as a nebbishy Lenny Bruce type and Bill Murray doling out his dry wit are welcome tangents, littered throughout Swan's story. But these characters, far more deserving of their own cerebral "glimpses," are never offered enough of the spotlight. As such, the journey we do take — one traveled in an imaginative vehicle, adorned with an interesting aesthetic — feels limited. With all of the things that this film has at its disposal, things that could work wonders, its a shame they are devoted entirely to a character who isn't worthy of them. rated this film 2 stars.