With the wide praise his directorial debut Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind is getting, actor George Clooney can forget Solaris that opened a few months ago and flopped resoundingly.
A psychological sci-fi drama which Clooney co-produced besides starring in it, Solaris was directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh. It grossed about $20 million in America and is not faring well abroad.
This weekend, Clooney will know if Confessions, a $29 million production, which expands from five to 1,650 screens, has the potential to be profitable. It has to gross at least $70 million from movie houses and video/DVD sales to make a profit.
Some box-office observers believe the film, which opened three weeks ago, is too dark and quirky to play on 1,650 screens, and that distributor Miramax should have gone slow with the expansion. The movie needed more time to build its reputation, these observers feel.
Others believe Miramax, known for its expertise in handling quirky movies, has a strong sense the film has appeal beyond the art houses.
Miramax executives must think word of mouth for the movie has been so good that it will draw plenty of people across the country. Julia Roberts as the spy master would no doubt add to the appeal.
The movie could make Clooney a big-time Hollywood director, and Sam Rockwell known as a star who can also act. His 'is a daring, dazzling performance,' Peter Travers wrote in Rolling Stone.
About half a dozen stars including Denzel Washington (with the much praised Antwone Fisher) and Nicholas Cage (the reviled Sonny), made directorial debuts last year. Many critics believe Clooney's was the most daring and assured work.
Most reviewers, including Rolling Stone and New York Post, were high on the film. Among the dissenting critics, Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times complained it was 'tedious.'
'The year goes out on a high note with Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, George Clooney's hugely entertaining 'biography' of Chuck Barris,' Lou Lumenick wrote in the Post.
What is admirable about Clooney as a filmmaker is that though he cannot resist acting in his film, he is more interested in getting stronger performances from his costars. He has also ensured he worked with a gifted scriptwriter, in this case Charlie Kaufman (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich). Together, they take us beyond Barris' absurd claim that he used his trash television programs to advance his CIA agenda. Clooney and Kaufman make us wonder if there could be some truth in the claim.
Clooney, who also co-produced the film, is emerging as one of Hollywood's more eclectic star producers. On one hand, he makes vastly entertaining films such as Ocean's Eleven that made about $460 million worldwide. On the other, he takes big risks with movies like Solaris and Confessions.
Soon, he will reunite with Soderbergh on Ocean's Twelve, glossy entertainment to be released in 2004.
In between, expect at least one more risky, audacious Confessions kind of a movie.