Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
What the MPAA Rating should be: PG (for some language and brief nudity)
Directed by: Richard Attenborough
Written by: William Boyd, Bryan Forbes and William Goldman
Based on the books by: David Robinson and Charles Chaplin
Produced by: Richard Attenborough and Mario Kassar
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Paul Rhys, Geraldine Chaplin, Kevin Kline, Kevin Dunn, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Diane Lane
Studio: Carolco Pictures
Charles Chaplin was one of cinema's first geniuses. Responsible for such immortal classics like Modern Times
and City Lights
, his life was brought to the screen in this highly enojoyable film from Academy Award winning director Sir Richard Attenborough. Adapted from Chaplin's own autobiography and David Robinson's fascinating documentation on the great comedian (well worth a read), the film portrays his life from living in poverty on the slums of London to becoming a hot bed of controversy during the McCarthy era of the 1950's. All of his story is told through flashbacks, with a fictional editor discussing his auobiography that he wrote in the early 1960's, almost ten years after his re-entry visa into the United States was cancelled.
In between, we are introduced how Charlie Chaplin got into show business, with his older half brother Sydney showing his talents to Fred Karno. His drunk act is a huge success with audiences in England and he also falls in love for the first time with Hetty Kelly, a showgirl in Karno's troop. After she refuses his marriage proposal, he goes to a srange world called America where Mack Sennett from Keystone Studios hires him to be in a brand new, magical technology known as "film." It is then that Charlie creates his immortal character and one that will live on for generations: The Little Tramp. He then moves on to direct his own films and marries an underage girl named Mildrid Harris, who soon divorces him, even so far as wanting The Kid
. He continues to marry more teenagers as well as the twenty-two year old Paulette Goddard, who remarks that she's much to old for him. He also decides to poke fun at the world's biggest monster, Adolf Hitler in The Great Dictator
, despite his Jewish brother's protests against the idea. Meanwhile, Chaplin's greatest enemy J Edgar Hoover constantly thwarts to rid America of the famed British comedian.
Read the above the description of Chaplin
and notice that only two films of the real Chaplin are mentioned. There lies the main problem with this biopic. It concentrates so much screen times on his marriages and controversies, that it forgets what made Chaplin so great and a saviour in people's eyes: his films. Chaplin
barely shows Charlie actually making his beloved classics with him being shown directing only four of his pictures. Those scenes don't even last for a long time with other films being mentioned quite briefly. However, Attenborough feels necessary to use up a lot of screentime on his relationships (the Joan Barry storyline lasts for too long) and Anthony Hopkins's roul as his autobiography editor is unneeded. However, as a Chaplin fan, I feel unable to not recommend this film because it actually is very entertaining with the highlight certainly being the Oscar-nominated performance by Robert Downey Jr. He captures every nuance and movement of Charles Spencer Chaplin perfectly that his portrayal of the Little Tramp doesn't feel like an imitation. Geraldine Chaplin also manages a splendid job playing her own grandmother. She appears in few scenes, but still leaves an impression throughout the film.
Moira Kelly also delivers in two roles as both Chaplin's first love Hetty Kelly and as his last love Oona O'Neal as well as Kevin Kline playing his long time friend and United Artists co-founder Douglas Fairbanks. The technical aspects of the production also prove immensely well with the makeup, costumes, sets and John Barry's score all being top-notch. The screenplay, which was written by three very accomplished writers, give the characters some natural lines that their real life personas certainly would have said. Chaplin
may not show exactly what made Chaplin such a genius, but Downey Jr's performance as well as the rest of the accomplished cast make this a great film to watch after gobling up those great silent and sound comedies that only a genius like Charles Chaplin could create.
Robert Downey perfectly portrays The Little Tramp in Chaplin.