I have no idea who Chuck Barry is, but I guess I should not miss Mr. Clooney's director debut, furthermore Charlie Kaufman is billed as the screen writer, so the premise looks rosy. The film kicks off with a self-inspective unreeling of Chuck's life-long hustle and bustle jostling with his TV show-runner identity and a clandestine CIA assassin, interspersing with black & white snippets of interviews with people who know Chuck in the real life (but mostly are pithy soundbites whose only purpose is to mystify his personage), occasionally the film switches into an over-saturated, over-exposed hue which may engender some hallucinatory reverberation, since the most obvious selling point is the enthralling double life scenario and leaving all the traces which could be siphoned (by viewers) to make one's own judgement whether it is plain fictional or not.
But the ramifications are as much ambiguous as what George Clooney (an exemplar of the mainstream Hollywood mindset) wants us to believe, it does manage to shape a believe-it-or-despise-it logjam and according to the film's depiction, Chuck Barry is nothing but a pipsqueak (there is no reference of any flair in his ascending in the show business), a lunatic has a very troubled mental state (a dreadful imagination of someone is going to finish him off), a repellent womanizer/sex-addict has big commitment issues if we simply remove the " hit-man" halo, so from which one could imply is that the "other identity" suits well to rationalize his personal mire, it is his last straw, but from the eyes of an audience, it flunks by blatantly over-beautifying the double-identity situation, I never feel the frisson albeit the film is being cunningly shot in a retro-redolent grain, with a friendly comic tone and lively interactions between the cinematography and the editing, plus an ace soundtrack with the trademark of its time. But pitifully Charlie Kaufman's script doesn't have too much to bite.
The biographic nature demands a wider range of chronicle, which may also be the Achilles heel of the genre, without zooming in any enhanced center-pieces, everything runs episodic, leaving no instant aftertaste at all to be amazed and appreciated. All sidekicks are come-and-go (with Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts the female auxiliaries have longer stints, both equally awful I must say, Barrymore doesn't age at all along a two-decades span which is so dragging viewers out of the picture), the sole comic relief is the performance from Sam Rockwell, who was largely unknown at that time and overlooked by the awards season (a SILVER BERLIN BEAR for BEST ACTOR is his only trophy), his panache proffers the vitality of the film against its slightly mind-bogging narrative tempo, also his personal charisma transcends his character, and sublimates his character Chuck, a connection has been substantially built across the screen, a triumphant achievement in deed.
Rutger Hauer, a fellow assassin, said in the film "killing my first man (in the WWII) is like making love with my first woman", which strikes a chord with my previous argument in DR. STRANGELOVE (1964, 8/10), war and killing may truly be the by-product of heterosexual men's hegemony in the society, if actually the raving stupidity germinates from the biologic impulse, along with evolution, let us hope a less macho but peaceful world is ahead of us.