Adapted by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) from Chuck Barris's fanciful 1984 autobiography, this feature charts the rise of a young man on the make (Sam Rockwell in a knockout performance) from the early 60s, when Barris wrote the Freddy Cannon hit “Palisades Park,” to the late 60s, when he created The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, and through the 70s, when his freak talent contest The Gong Show was cited as evidence that television had hit rock bottom (little did they know). All along, Barris claims, he was working as a CIA operative and assassinating enemy agents in Europe. George Clooney, in his directing debut, botches the spy plot by casting himself as Barris's agency contact and Julia Roberts as Barris's Mata Hari lover. Yet the mounting delirium drives home Kaufman's basic point: that a shadow government rules by bread and circuses. Interspersed is commentary from people who've known Barris (Dick Clark, Jaye P. Morgan, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine); when the man himself appears at the close, his bland but crafty smile chills to the bone. 113 min.