Cert: 15 Runtime: 143 mins Director: Richard Attenborough Cast: Robert Downey Jr,Geraldine Chaplin, Paul Rhys, John Thaw, Anthony Hopkins, Marisa Tomei and Dan Aykroyd
If you want to understand me, watch my movies
So let’s kick off Downey Jr, month with the film that I believe that started this man on the path of A-List actor. He was that good in Chaplin he was nominated for and Academy Award. What is Chaplin? The film is structured around lengthy flashbacks as the elderly Charlie Chaplin (Robert Downey Jr.) (now living in Switzerland) recollects moments from his life during a conversation with fictional character George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins), the editor of his autobiography. Chaplin’s recollections begin with his childhood of extreme poverty, from which he escapes by immersing himself in the world of the London music halls, after which he relocates to the United States.There are references to some of his many romantic episodes (including Hetty Kelly, Mildred Harris, Georgia Hale, Marion Davies, Edna Purviance, Lita Grey, Paulette Goddard, Joan Barry and Oona O’Neill), his professional collaboration with Mack Sennett and friendship with Douglas Fairbanks. Downey’s performance was the strongest element of the film and he deserved an Oscar nod for it. Downey was able to display he could do both the comic slapstick with comical observations mixed with the serious drama of the film. He shows that there was tragedy in Chaplin’s life and that like with most comedians there is a troubled background. He is a man who cares but is faulted as well, willing be selfish. And he is political, from his views against Nazism to his opinion that America needs to be open. And Downey does give an excellent English accent, making should he added authenticity to his role.
Attenborough made sure there was a balance between the comic and the drama, though I personally preferred the more dramatic elements of the film. He uses screen wipes to give the film a feel of a silent movie and made should despite the 2 hours, 18 minute running time the film does have a fast pace to it. A problem is that some elements of the film does feel like they were rushed and skipped over and the scene in Utah which was done like a Chaplin silent film did not work for me in the context of the film. A scene thought that was really well handled was the ending when Chaplin receives a life time achievement Oscar when they show clips of Chaplin’s old films and Chaplin slowly starts to cry some tears: it was a scene that did not need words.Thematically the basic idea of the film is that it shows someone can fulfil the America dream, from poverty in London a man with talent can success in Hollywood if he just has the ambition and intelligence to do. He was a man who become a millionaire but still had sympathy for the have nots in society. There is the theme of Chaplin’s wondering eye for younger ladies and his inability to keep a relationship going. The other idea of the film is America’s distrust of anyone being critical of their society and system, that anyone who dares to criticise is tagged as a Communist or hates America, a problem that is still affecting the nation. It shows that under the era of Hoover and McCarthyism that people were hounded just because of their beliefs.