“Roman Coppola may only be on his second directorial feature,” writes Jessica Kiang at the Playlist, “but as a music video and commercials director, and as a writer and frequent Wes Anderson collaborator—not to mention handling the second unit on various films from his famous family members—he has certainly amassed a wealth of filmic experience. All of which he brings to bear on A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III… Destined to be a crowd-pleaser because of its many celebrity cameos, quirky and apropos Liam Hayes music, and lovingly detailed 70s-influenced stylization, the film affords many glossy, knowing pleasures, and we found ourselves really wanting to love it. But that deeper level of engagement just didn’t kick in for us for two main reasons: the lack of a strong narrative through line and the lack of dimensionality to the central titular character. The film delivers on its title, but it turns out we need more than just a glimpse.”
“Swan is more of a doodle than a fully formed idea, though not necessarily less enjoyable for it, since it was clearly intended to be an undisciplined, anything-goes kinda story,” writes Boyd van Hoeij in Variety. “It begins with a literal look at the contents of the brain of the titular protagonist [Charlie Sheen], shown onscreen in 1970s-style animated collage (he’s a graphic designer with a clear love for advertising and the look of the period). Unsurprisingly, a large part of Charlie’s gray matter is dedicated to women and sex, which is why he’s so troubled by the fact that his true love, blonde bombshell Ivana (Katheryn Winnick), has left him…. Trying to help Charlie get his life in order are his best bud, Kirby (Jason Schwartzman), a comic with a Jewfro; his spare-tire-carrying business manager, Saul (Bill Murray); and his hippie-ish novelist sister, Izzy (Patricia Arquette). They also appear in his subconscious in various roles; Murray is especially strong as a John Wayne-style cowboy daring Charlie to face a horde of bikini-clad Indians headed by Ivana, and in an inspired sequence that describes a secret organization of ball-busting women, with Murray leading the charge against them. Coppola’s screenplay thus jumps from one idea to the other, and while quite a few of them are amusing, what’s missing in most scenes is a sense of purpose beyond potentially scoring a few giggles.”
“Visually, the film is certainly an assured work, retaining the slick color schemes of Edward Hopper by way of Mad Men with a plastic exuberance reminiscent of Russ Meyer,” suggests Celluloid Liberation Front at Indiewire. “Still, viewers may have a hard time completely rejecting the film’s indulgences, which maintain a certain innocent quality. It is tempting to read the whole thing as vaguely biographical, given the public identity of its star, since the story involves a man burdened by fame and talent but lacking determination. But such appeal is merely academic for this directionless project, a hodgepodge of awkward storytelling and bizarre digressions as hard to love as it is to hate.”
“With such an in-house cast of extended Coppola family sparklers, one would think things couldn’t go too wrong in the comedy department,” writes Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter, “but they have little chance to oil the wheels of a creaky script written around Sheen. His swaggering, clowning portrayal of Swan, a successful graphic designer with naked women on the brain, has likeable moments of sheer absurd humor. But as a latter-day Being John Malkovich (where Sheen appeared in a brief self-parody), the film lacks style, wit and originality.”
Update, 11/26: Jessica Kiang talks with Coppola.