Chaplin

"Very Good"

Chaplin Review


Movies about movie stars are always a dodgy affair. They reek of in-jokes, chumminess, and a glossy version of Hollywood that has never really existed.

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.



Chaplin

Facts and Figures

Run time: 143 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th January 1993

Distributed by: Columbia TriStar

Production compaines: TriStar Pictures, Japan Satellite Broadcasting (JBS), Carolco Pictures, RCS Video, Le Studio Canal+

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 57%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 20

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. as Charles Spencer Chaplin, as Hannah Chaplin, as Sydney Chaplin, John Thaw as Fred Karno, as Hetty Kelly / Oona O'Neill Chaplin, as George Hayden, as Mack Sennett, as Mabel Normand, as Edna Purviance, as Douglas Fairbanks, as Mary Pickford, as Mildred Harris, as J. Edgar Hoover, Deborah Moore as Lita Grey, as Paulette Goddard, as Joseph Scott, as Rollie Totheroh, Michael Cade as Sydney Chaplin Jr

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