A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III: Boys Behaving Badly

Roman Coppola's nonsensical film—featuring Charlie Sheen as a playboy trying to get his girlfriend back—is visually stimulating. Don't expect anything more.

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When it comes to chronically badly-behaved celebrities, the mind may not forgive, but it sort of forgets. For instance, I know that Charlie Sheen, fairly recently, did some things to diminish my already limited regard for him, and that because of those things, is no longer on Two and a Half Men (a show I’ve watched approximately two and a half times.) I know that he told a television interviewer that he was “winning” in a hateful way that also suggested derangement and drug intake that may or may not have taken place seconds before he sat down. I also know that  when many of us say “winning,” we’ll often employ air quotes to suggest that we are anything but. For this sarcastic shorthand I’m grateful to Sheen, although I suspect that the phrase has about two minutes left in its pop-culture relevance.

This blatant lack of interest in all things Sheen (but what a sweet father, huh?) may make me the worst person in the world to review writer/director Roman Coppola’s haphazard frivolity, A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, which features Sheen in a role that is somewhere between the public persona of Sheen himself and Proust’s Charles Swann in his lusting-for-Odette days. This presents a very wide range, I know, but I’m looking for possible purpose in giving this purposeless movie this title. A graphic designer who specializes in album covers, the louche Charles is dumped by his girlfriend Ivana (Katheryn Winnick). She’s upset about her photograph being in a drawer full of dirty pictures of past lovers, a risible infraction measured against those stories of Sheen’s reputed marital discords.

(READ: TIME’s opinion piece, What Charlie Sheen Teaches About Domestic Violence)

Charles wants Ivana back. But she’s joined the Ball Busters, a “feminist” group (their description, not mine) that advances their agenda with buckskin bikinis and bows and arrows. When Charles and his best friend Kirby Star (Jason Schwartzman) track Ivana down, her warrior-sisters unleash a volley of arrows at them. Bill Murray is there too, playing one of Charles’ friends—his attitude and expressions are exactly those of a party-goer looking over your head to see if someone more interesting is at the door. Do you think they told him it was a Wes Anderson movie? (Coppola has an Oscar nomination for co-writing Moonrise Kingdom with sometime-collaborator Anderson.) Maybe they told him Anderson was directing from another country, the way he did with  Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Arrows, cleavage, and long tan legs are just the start of it. These fantasies go on, each highly stylized, interspersed with visits to the hospital, the workplace, and Charles Swan’s kitchen, where his Latina maid offers warm words of comfort. Sheen dances, speaks Spanish, and drives a zany car with a painting of bacon on one side, and eggs (sunny-side up) on the other. All this eye candy is ultimately only about as engaging as watching kids at play, which is what Sheen and Schwartzman seem to be doing. I can’t argue that this isn’t an accurate glimpse inside some man’s mind—perhaps Austin Powers?

(READ: James Poniewozik on The Two Charlie Sheens)

But what does it have to do with Charlie Sheen? The early posters for the movie featured nothing more than a half-peeled banana and his name across the top. It was not unreasonable to conclude that maybe we’d get a glimpse inside the mind of Charlie Sheen, who everyone suspected of being bananas. Sitting through The Mind of Charles Swan III does not lead to a deeper understanding of Charlie Sheen. It does, however, demonstrate his compulsion for poor judgment and bad choices. But weren’t we already convinced of that?

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