24 April 2002 | Dock-Ock
Solid Gold Biopic
Chaplin works on many levels, because on the one hand it packs an entertaining epic in to two hours and thirty minutes, but doesn't fail to keep up your interest and comes over as being very enjoyable. Perhaps the problem is that, Chaplins life might not be the most suitable for a MOVIE,purely because his life was so eventful, and might have translated itself better as a TV Mini Series, but for getting the best out of what screen time available and still coming up with some very credible work, you must hand it over to Richard Attenborough and everyone at Carolco. For starters, the movie is simply beautiful to look at. The production design by Stuart Craig [these days of Harry Potter fame] is well tuned with the simply fantastic Cinematography by Sven Nykvist, and this is why the movie works so well, because at the more tedious intermissions the movie has to offer [and there are only a few], the movie is still interesting and prestine to watch. Just as good are Ellen Mirojnick and John Mollo's costumes designs, in fact, Chaplin offers a production so rich that at once i forgot that this was a period film, and felt transported back to the various different time zones the movie had to offer, and this is a good sign of a genius at work. Richard Attenborough did similar wonders with his Ghandi , in my opinion he does it far more interestingly here. The real revelation of the movie is Robert Downey JR as Chaplin. I remember reading in a book entitled The Chaplin Encyclopedia, that hearts sank when an American assumed the role. Well, i cant really understand the kinetics behind this seeing that Chaplin spent 85% of his life away from England and was more of a worldwide Icon than a British spearhead, plus the fact that Americans ARE Good Actors, and Downey JR is one of the very finest. Charlie Chaplin himself was a couple of years before my time, but Downey JR is so fantastic, so realistic in the role that i didn't for one minute doubt the genius of the REAL Chaplin and in fact only became a fan of the little tramp after seeing this Biopic, as though the missing pieces of Chaplins life had come together to complete the jigsaw. Downey JR carries the movie, it is hard to imagine anyone else in the role, he is the right build, height and of simmilar looks and even nails the accent down. He even does The Little Tramp so covincingly that i think that Chaplin himself would have been forced to admit how good he is. This could prove to be Downey JR's best work on screen, but i hope like many other of his admirers that things do go right for him,and he gets on the right track and he is good to himself in future. On a side note i definitely think that Robert was worthy of the Academy Award for best actor for this, but the BAFTA is more than Justified. Hopefully his role in the adaption of Denis Potter's The Singing Detective will be good enough for him to be recognised by the Academy. The only down side to the characterisation awarded to Robert Downey JR in the title role is that the other characters pale in significance. Admitedly it is nice to see the famous faces such as Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks, Diane Lane, Penelope Anne Miller and the Late great John Thaw in a heart rendering cameo as Chaplins great influence Fred Karno. But their characters are so limited that the come a cross as essential but perhaps slightly surplus. More impressive and important are the likes of Dan Ackroyd in an hillarious cameo as Mack Sennet, and the interstingly cast Geraldine Chaplin as her own grandmother Hanna. The fact that Hannah Caplin was mentally ill and the effects it had on Charlie Chaplin are nicely hinted at but in large glossed over. Anthony Hopkins is, it must be said, wasted as the fictional George Hayden. It is however reassuring to see Hopkins, and he himself 15 or so years earlier might have made a good Chaplin himself. Paul Rhys, too is kept in the dark, wich is unfortunate because the character he plays, Chaplins brother sid, was quite a big cog in the Chaplin works [see Modern Times-joke]. The nicest other part is that of Hetty Kelly/Oona Chaplin, Chaplins first and last loves, played by Moira Kelly. Kelly's presence adds a nice touch of grace and gentleness to the movie. Perhaps the real failing of the movie is, like this review, it tries to pack to much in, and like i said this would have been better done as a TV Mini series, or even two movies. These minor quibbles asides, Chaplin boasts an enjoyably epic screenplay by Diana Hawkins, William Boyd, Bryan Forbes and the Legendary William Goldman, based on David Robinsons Chaplin-His Life and Art and My Autobiography by Chaplin Himself. The movie is tightly directed and edited, includes nice trick photography and is very professionaly and well acted, particularly y Robert Downey JR but everyone ivolved does well, no matter the merits of the characterisations. It also has one of the most beautiful, moving musical scores by John Barry, perhaps his best, sadly over looked of scores. If you havent seen the movie, i hope this review helps whet your appetite, because it is a very worthwhile worth seeing movie..........