Scattershot and offbeat, “Charles Swan III”‘s strongest attribute is that it’s odd.
Charles Swan III (Charlie Sheen) is a famous Hollywood graphic designer. He’s wealthy and a touch eccentric, but his business affords him to be. When his girlfriend Ivana (Katheryn Winnick) leaves him, after discovering his trove of pictures of his exes in various stages of undress, Charles has a bit of a breakdown.
After trying to throw a garbage bag full of her shoes into a canyon, Charles’s car (with him in it) rolls backwards down the steep hillside and winds up in someone’s swimming pool. While in the hospital, he experiences a series of hallucinations and/or fever dreams involving him, her, his best friend (Jason Schwartzman) and his business manager (Bill Murray). The battle of the sexes masquerading as hostile game of Cowboys and Indians, a rescue fantasy where he saves his ex from nazis, an espionage scene… Swan’s imagination jumps all over the road.
When he’s let out, however, his visions settle down as he’s forced to confront the fact that he’s lost his girl, has family relationship issues, and his business may be facing problems as well.
“A Glimpse Into the Mind of Charles Swan III” feels a bit like a Wes Anderson film, and for good reason. Writer/Director Roman Coppola (son of Francis) collaborated with Anderson on the scripts for “Darjeeling Limited” and “Moonrise Kingdom”. He also secured the help of two of Anderson’s major playhouse regulars in Schwartzman and Murray. The film also features the low-key humor of an Anderson film and was scored with a quirky, single performer score (by Liam Hayes). There’s no doubt that at times, the movie comes across at times as if it were a poor man’s Wes Anderson movie.
I say poor man’s because this film does not hold it together well. From the intro, where an unseen Doctor asks Swan questions and we see a Monty Python-esque animation of the contents of his brain, we’re set for a stylish off-beat comedic ride. And to an extent, we’re given that early in the film, where Swan’s flashbacks merge with his fantasies in a stream of consciousness fashion until we’re not sure what we’re watching for certain… That surreal styling is pulled away though in the second and third acts, as Charles needs to get real about things and the movie settles into a straight forward narrative.
That winds up pulling away most of the entertainment value as well, however. Not that the surreal visions that he was having were comedic masterpieces, but the story of Swan trying to get his girlfriend back, deal with his sister (Patricia Arquette), and get his business back on track was really rather dull. The comedy just wasn’t there, and without the surrealism, that doesn’t leave you with much. Further, the film really doesn’t feel as if it has anything to say… it’s a bit of a view of romance from the male perspective… if that male were a wealthy, eccentric, alcoholic, man-child (kind of like Sheen himself), but that’s really about it.
It’s the second film for Coppola Jr. and I think he showed some potential. The directing aspect really wasn’t where the flaws were, I think the fault lay more in his aimless script. Big fans of Murray, Schwartzman and Sheen will be able to find a moment or two to enjoy here, certainly, but for anyone else, there’s really nothing here to recommend.