June 7, 2010

Chaplin - 1992

Director: Richard Attenborough
Writers: William Boyd, Bryan Forbes, & William Goldman
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomei, Kevin Kline, Milla Jovovich, Diane Lane

"If you want to understand me, watch my movies." A decade after Gandhi, Richard Attenborough decided to make a second epic biopic, this time focusing on Charlie Chaplin (Downey), a man who amused millions while his own life was in shambles thanks to struggles with relationships, the United States government, and the transfer to talkies which threatened to make him obsolete.
Much like with Gandhi, Attenborough proves his adeptness at delving beyond the surface of a well-known figure, and he could do no better in casting than Downey, who holds his own not only in the accent department, but also shifts from comedic genius to dramatic expert and back in the blink of an eye. The actresses who portray the bevy of beauties in Chaplin's life are virtually interchangeable, but that's not entirely a criticism, as the film gives the impression hew never truly cared for any one more than the others aside from Oona, his fourth wife. While the script has been criticized by some for not properly encompassing the multifaceted life of Chaplin, I found the 2:20 runtime more than sufficient in being an accurate portrayal, even despite the framing device (an elderly Chaplin telling his life story to the editor of his biography, the sole fictional person in the film). The scenes in the old age makeup do serve one purpose: Downey's ability to emote through it cements this as his greatest performance to date, although in the light of Iron Man, one all too unknown.

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