Chaplin (1992)

The biographical story of the life of Charles Chaplin, starring Robert Downey Jr as the legendary British Comedian.

It is one of those movies that I’ve been meaning to watch for what seems like forever. I’m a big fan of Downey Jr and this film has always been highly recommended viewing, but it hasn’t been until now that I’ve found time to watch it.

The film itself was fun to watch, I’ve seen a few Chaplin films but know very little about him in general.  The film didn’t help really tell me about the man himself but it made me interested enough to start researching about him. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, knows who Chaplin is whether you’ve read about him, heard him mentioned, seen someone dressed as him or watched his movies. Yet I don’t think anyone my age really knows about the man, and it is interesting to read up on him after watching a film like this.

I think Robert Downey Jr was perfectly cast, he had all the mannerisms down perfectly and you could see that when they used clips of the real Chaplin woven into the films narrative. I said above I’m a big fan of Downey Jr, not because he’s Iron Man but because he tends to live the role of whomever he’s playing. You can see it in leaps and bounds here, he’s one of those actors who just belong in the film. If you have a bad movie and add Downey Jr into it it’ll be made better purely because his character will be pitch perfect.

But the cast in general were eccentric and colourful. Full of actors that I’d grown up watching, that I love dearly and who always capture the spirit and fun of anything. Dan Aykroyd, Milla Jovovich, Anthony Hopkins, John Thaw, Kevin Kline…. The movie just oozed with personality and it needed to. The era of Chaplin was full of over the top and real personalities that bubbled around together and the film managed to pull that feeling off.

My favourite casting was Geraldine Chaplin as Hannah Chaplin. His daughter playing his mother. Not only was it kind of sweet but the story of his mother and his struggle with her illness and how tender he really was with her was the most emotional part of the whole story. It was sad and moved me to tears quite a bit.

When you have such big eccentric personalities you don’t just make a bog standard biographical film. The style that Richard Attenborough used was just as flamboyant and crazy. The most perfect example of which was when Chaplin was telling the story of how he came by the Tramps outfit, the scene taken out of the movie and showed to anyone who hadn’t seen it would be the perfect example of what to expect. It brought life to a seemingly boring thing, I think some of the narrative pointed to Chaplin telling it to make it more then it was, but it really is an important part of the film and of the history of Chaplin, he’ll always be remembered for the Tramp more then anything and the iconic outfit and the scene in which Downey Jrs Chaplin kind of magnetically conjures it out of fine air onto himself is a masterpiece.

Now I love the film to pieces but if I’m going to point out one tiny criticism it’ll be how rushed it all felt. You never really got a feel of anything. It wasn’t enough to ruin the film and is understandable but at points really was obvious that they needed to save time so just flew past plot points. It really is understandable for a man that lived such a life, such a long and eventful one in a era that he really shaped. I mean I would hate to be in charge of such a project, through a life lived to the fullest what would you really pick or choose to expand or leave bare? It was a difficult thing for the writers and director and they did it well.

The film runs for 144 minutes and was released back in 1992. It garned critical response and you can see why. It really is a movie that hasn’t aged, if I hadn’t known it was filmed pretty much two decades ago I would never have guessed. It is a perfectly wonderful story and a great look into the life of a legend, a real legend… Someone who won’t be forgotten.

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