With the film opening in black and white, we see Charlie (Robert Downey Jr.) as his most memorable character, The Tramp, with deliberate moves removing his hat, giant shoes, gloves, mustache, and wiping the makeup off his face with some cold cream. As he wipes his face, the picture slowly comes to color and I am hooked. Other than his iconic cane, tumbler hat and mustache, I am ashamed to admit I did not know much about Charlie Chaplin. What a fantastic impact he had on cinema! What an incredible life story of tragedy and triumph! In Richard Attenborough’s CHAPLIN get ready for the rollercoaster ride that was Charlie’s life.
This story is told through flashbacks as ghost writer George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins) questions an elderly Charlie about specifics in his life when filling in blank spots within Chaplin’s autobiography. It is hard for me to limit myself from going through each scene, each stage of Charlie’s life, especially when a film spans over 70 years of his life!
CHAPLIN has an incredible ensemble cast throughout the various times of Charlie’s life and experiences. Geraldine Chaplin (real life daughter of Charlie Chaplin/granddaughter of the character she plays) tackles the role of Charlie’s mentally unstable mother with brilliant form. Her performance sets the tone of Charlie’s youth that propels his career as a vaudeville performer. I don’t think it would be easy to play a person with a fragile mental state and commend Geraldine on her performance. Director Mack Sennett, who gave Charlie his start in cinema, was made likeable by Dan Aykroyd’s brief appearance in this film. It is when Charlie is paired with Sennett that he creates his world famous character The Tramp. Other memorable performances are made by Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks, Marissa Tomei as Mabel Normand and Kevin Dunn as J. Edgar Hoover just to name a few of the cast members that grace the movie with their presence. Moira Kelly as Chaplin’s love interest is sweet and earnest and a fantastic casting option.
Of course, the ever charming and endearing Robert Downey Jr. as Chaplin is nothing short of fantastic. From impeccable slapstick routines, heartbreak, and mimicking Chaplin perfectly, I am blown away and in awe. If this film would have been created now, I don’t think we would have seen as much vulnerability from RDJ and perhaps, we would have expected a different type of performance. Something of a SHERLOCK HOLMES meets IRONMAN while doing Chaplin’s Tramp shtick? Whew! Glad this film came out when it did and that we get to see this acting style from RDJ. He gives heart to the film in being the clown and when being Charlie. When playing an elderly version of Chaplin he does a great job, shuffling his feet, using slow motion movements and thoughtful facial expressions, he is believable as a septuagenarian.
From all that Chaplin gave us in the way of cinema, I am thankful for this glimpse into his life, and happy to have watched this incredible story performed perfectly by the great Robert Downey Jr. If you have the time, I highly recommend this film for its history, fun and heart.
Video: (1.781 Widescreen) A bit of a grainy transfer to Blu-Ray
Audio: (2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio) Audio is nice during the picture but a bit off when watching the special features.
Strolling Into The Sunset (7:30): Director Richard Attenborough, discusses the film and how they wanted to make a movie about Charlie Chaplin but didn’t think it could be done until coming across Robert Downey Jr. One thing I liked about this feature was hearing Attenborough say he wished he would have done a better or different job with the film. It was not as profound a film he imagined.
Chaplin The Hero (6:06): Again the director, biographer, and Chaplin’s son, Michael, discuss how Chaplin’s character The Tramp transcended countries, how he was a genius and they don’t think there will ever be someone like him again.
The Most Famous Man In The World (5:27): Footage of Chaplin drawing huge crowds to see him around the world. The features Strolling Into The Sunset, Chaplin The Hero, The Most Famous Man In The World really could be one giant feature instead of separated into three. You hear the same information in each feature along with the same footage.
All At Sea Chaplin Home Movie (2:27): A slapstick home movie with Charlie and his brother goofing off at sea.
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