Chaplin Movie Review
Cast & Crew
Director : Richard Attenborough
Producer : Richard Attenborough
As actors go, Charlie Chaplin is at least a worthy candidate for a biopic. His impact on the acting profession and especially physical comedy is hard to overstate, and the man remains an icon whose face (or silhouette) embodies cinema. In the hands of Richard Attenborough, Chaplin's life is digested into the highlights -- from vaudevillian youth to his arrival in Hollywood to his amazingly fast rise to fame. Attenborough even dabbles in Chaplin's investigation by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Naturally, the running series of Chaplin's famous romantic entanglements are carefully tallied, the actresses playing the various Mrs. Chaplins (and near misses) making up a who's who of early-'90s starlets.
Robert Downey Jr. is excellent in the title role -- though the "old man" makeup used for Chaplin's later years is absolutely awful. He has a knack for the physical and of course Downey's rapier wit is just right for the part. He bears a strong physical resemblance to Chaplin, too.
While the actors can't be faulted for any failings in the production, it's easy to look to the rambling, dreamy script and Attenborough's gimmicky direction for softness. Attenborough clearly suffers from a hero worship problem here, lavishing the man with praise and too-easily forgiving his flaws. The film's structure -- Chaplin meeting with a book editor (Anthony Hopkins) as he works through his autobiography -- tries to hint that Chaplin is the one doing the glossing over. After all, they're his memoirs. But really this is Attenborough picking and choosing what he'd like us to see, the warts all carefully buffed away. It's a loving and often endearing homage to a man, but as with all things Hollywood, it ain't history.
The 15th Anniversary DVD includes making-of featurettes and a Chaplin home movie.
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