'A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III' review: As empty as a Charlie Sheen apology

Zero stars (out of four)

I don’t know when or how “A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III” came about, but here’s the phone conversation that may as well have taken place between star Charlie Sheen and writer/director Roman Coppola:

CS: “Roman, baby, it’s Sheen. Need a favor.”

RC: “Of course. I remember what happened last time I said ‘no’ to you.”

CS: “Bitchin’. Need to do a movie to show how hard it is being me. We’ll call the character Charles Swan as a wink-wink, nudge-nudge thing. He’s a smug, unrepentant playboy in 1970s L.A. who confronts his failings after his girlfriend dumps him. Except since it’s everyone else’s fault for misunderstanding him, he’ll learn nothing and won’t change. Dig?”

RC: “Great. After writing ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ with Wes, I want to shake things up and make a movie that’s completely soulless and hollow.”

Seriously, movies don’t come much more self-congratulatory than “Charles Swan III,” which shifts the unfocused, ‘60s-nodding style of Coppola’s 2001 writing/directing debut “CQ” into something even more detached and insincere.

Swan is a wealthy designer who drives a car with bacon and eggs painted on it but needs to wake up and smell the coffee, since his beautiful better half, Ivana (Katheryn Winnick), has plenty of reasons to walk out on her selfish boyfriend. Instead, Swan, his best friend Kirby (Jason Schwartzman) and financial adviser Saul (Bill Murray) groan about women’s conniving heartlessness as the guys play victims and lament the poor condition of being horny guys whose significant others won’t just be happy with men who make no effort at all.

Displaying no recognizable human emotions, Sheen can’t even convincingly play a version of himself. “Swan” unfolds as if we should be dazzled by Swan’s misbehavior and fascinated by this scoundrel’s over-stylized fantasies (he dreams of popping out of his grave dancing and, later, his exes presenting him with the “Best Bull[bleep] Winner” award at a glitzy ceremony.). 

This pretentious jerk relaxes on a hot dog couch and mentions his toucan first in his audio will, but it’s not an indictment: Swan’s a me-first guy who thinks he’s entitled to everyone else’s adoration. Nothing in the film, which co-stars Patricia Arquette, Aubrey Plaza and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in thankless roles, suggests any painful comeuppance that results from Swan’s attitude.

A guy fixated on sex isn’t unique. A sleazy vanity project for a fallen star deserves to win that award Swan so proudly gave himself.
 

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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