Roman Coppola, the oldest heir to the family filmmaking dynasty, ventures back into the directing chair, following his debut from over a decade back (2001’s little-seen kitsch sci-fi homage, CQ). Unfortunately, on the strength of this follow-up, little sister Sofia has little to fear in being surpassed in the directing stakes. If her films are sometimes criticised for their style of content, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2012) is the absolute embodiment of that. Swan (Charlie Sheen, back from the brink it would seem) is a successful graphic artist with his own agency and a penchant for the finer things in life.
Swan’s current squeeze Ivana (Katheryn Winnick) has just left him, and so begins a downwards emotional spiral as he reflects on his time with her through a series of vignettes and flashbacks. Ultimately, Swan must confront some ugly truths about himself if he is to embark on that road to recovery. The film’s opening, which sees Swan in a therapy session as his inner mind begins to spill over with Monty Python-esque graphics, immediately illustrates Coppola’s haphazard cribbing of familiar, altogether superior, esoteric works. Sometimes he shoots for a loose, zany Richard Lester-like knockabout atmosphere, while other times he attempts to channel a Michel Gondry surrealist trawl through the psyche.
The director’s approach and mentality appears to be everything but the kitchen sink (which he deliberately interprets on a visually level towards the end of the film) but all this serves to highlight the uncertain grasp as has on the material. Despite being his most watchable in years – faint praise admittedly, given his woeful decade-plus small screen career – Sheen’s character simply isn’t as interesting as Coppola would have you believe, and there’s not enough meaty parallels with the actor’s own life to warrant a pseudo-biography. Swan’s horndog lothario appearance isn’t too far removed from actor himself, but that meta-merging is never really addressed in thoughtful and compelling way.
A completely wasted supporting cast includes Bill Murray, who crops up intermittently as Swan’s manger but adds very little to proceeding, and Coppola’s own cousin Jason Schwartzman – a singer/songwriter who models a distracting ‘fro and does little else. Coppola may have produced the goods as a collaborator (he co-scripted Wes Anderson’s 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom), but A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III is far from the kind of heart-felt introspective character piece the director’s contemporaries often do so well, ending up as an empty and indulgent exercise in Hollywood whimsy.