Posted by: Jen. 3 Stars
Director: Richard Attenborough
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys, Anthony Hopkins
I love Charlie Chaplin, and Robert Downey Jr. was perfect in the role. I was a little afraid that it would be three hours long and focus mainly on his relationships and personal life, but it was so much more than that. It’s a great film for people who enjoy the man’s work or have any interest in old Hollywood.
While it was a rather long film, it was delightful and entertaining. There was conflict, scandal, and greatness set against the backdrop of the turn of the century, the Great Depression, and the Red Scare. It set up a good antagonist in J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI who plotted Chaplin’s downfall, though I don’t think they spent enough time on this. They showed Chaplin’s turmoil over making silent films in the era of talking pictures, which was the downfall of many old Hollywood stars. They even showed a little bit of his madness in controlling every aspect of his movies himself, as he was writer, director, producer, actor, and musician. And intersperse through it all were actual clips of some of his movies.
The only real criticism I have is that at the end of the film, they showed Chaplin getting a special honor at the Academy Awards and then had a cut away to explain about what happened to every character who made an appearance, resulting in ten minutes of reading. I understand that mentioning what happened the last years of Chaplin’s life would give closure to those who sit through 3 hours of this film, and maybe even what became of his brother and his wife. But then they also felt the need mention his mother, J. Edgar, all his ex-wives and lovers, his staff, and everyone else who had ever heard of him. It seems that over the course of making this film, they forgot it was a movie and not a novel – a reasonable mistake to make.
All in all, Chaplin was an essential part of the transition to making films into an art form, something beautiful, which has a story to tell. He was known for his films such as The Kid and City Lights, which were as funny as they were tragic, and this film gives his life the same treatment.