Friday, January 11, 2013


Well, I finally decided it was high time that I stop watching horror movies for a while and get back into some drama. I looked into Netflix to see if anything new was streaming and that’s when I happened upon a film I’ve wanted to see since its release almost twenty years ago.

It’s one movie that had been on my radar for quite some time now, but I’ve never been able to sit down and watch it. The movie I’m referring to is the 1993 film, Chaplin, starring Robert Downey, Jr. in the pivotal role of Charlie Chaplin. I’m glad I finally found the opportunity because this film was epically great. Having always had a curious fascination with Sir Charles Chaplin, I found this film very intriguing and entertaining. I had never really known the trials and tribulations this man went through, nor the enemies he had made in our country, simply for wanting to entertain and make films for everyone to enjoy.

Of course, we all know Charlie Chaplin for his lovable and humorous character, “The Tramp,” and how he had entertained audiences during the silent film era, but this film, based on Chaplin’s autobiography and “Chaplin: His Life and Art” by David Robinson, delved deeper into who he was and what he went through during his stint in cinema.

The film begins with Charlie Chaplin’s days as a child (Hugh Downer playing the younger version), living in poor conditions with his older brother, Sydney (the younger version played by Nicholas Gatt and the older version, later, by Paul Rhys), and mother, Hannah (Geraldine Chaplin), until the day comes where her mind finally snaps and a teenaged Charles (Thomas Bradford) has to have his mom committed. Later, with the help of his brother, Charles gets a job in small vaudeville-like shows as a comedy act until he’s noticed in the United States and starts acting in films as he discovers and begins his “Tramp” character. Throughout the beginning of the film, we hear a voiceover, then later see a flash-forward, of Downey, Jr. playing the elder Chaplin living in Switzerland as he’s reciting his story to the fictional character of George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins), who is writing Chaplin’s biography (fictionalized in the film, because Chaplin wrote his own autobiography).

What kept me absorbed in this film were the adversities Chaplin went through as he made a name for himself in movies. J. Edgar Hoover, himself, kept a file on the silent film star during the time—before and after—of World War II. Nazism was not to be taken lightly, and it seemed that Chaplin was being watched and thought of as a Nazi supporter during that time. As time went on, and the fear of Russia and communism went through America, Chaplin was kept an eye on because of his affiliation with supporters of that mindset.

But most intriguing of all was how Charlie Chaplin never felt like he did enough or ever reached his goal. He was very innovative and headstrong, not falling for what the norm was in Hollywood or what his peers thought he should do. For instance, being that Chaplin started his career during the silent movie era, when “talkies” came to be, he refused to let his “Tramp” character speak, feeling like the character would lose everything he portrayed and change for the worse if he did.

Very sad how our country treated this legend, but it does have sort of a happy ending as Chaplin finally realizes, at the end of the film, that he did do enough in his career and left quite a legacy in Hollywood.

Robert Downey, Jr. does an amazing job in the lead role of Charles Chaplin. I guess it helps that he has the same build, looking remarkably like the great comedic actor, but I’m sure performing Chaplin’s physical comedy was no easy task to pull off. And although many British actors portray Americans, this time it was the other way around as Downey, Jr. does a terrific job at keeping up a British accent, believably, throughout the film.

The sets were terrific, depicting each period perfectly as the movie goes on, from Chaplin’s early life in the late 1800s to the 1970s. The cinematography was excellent and the recreations of Chaplin’s films were done well with no modern embellishments whatsoever.

Yes, this film was brilliant and it’s a wonder why I had waited so long to finally sit down and watch it.

My final “bit” on Chaplin?

Although Robert Downey, Jr. went through some personal problems, before and after this film, it did not get in the way of his profession as he pulls off a terrific performance. I remember thinking that he finally accomplished the high of his career as he was nominated an Academy Award (and won a BAFTA Award) for Best Actor back then. However, he continued to have a few more publicized issues afterwards. Still, he didn’t let that get in the way of his career as so many actors and actresses do these days (are you listening Lindsay Lohan?). Anyway, when it comes to dramatic films like this, I’m not one to add too many to my DVD and Blu-Ray collection, so I won’t advise that you do that. But if you are a collector of dramatic pieces such as Chaplin, you’ll be happy with this film in your collection. Overall, I loved it and was glad I finally gave it a view.

Thanks for reading!

: @CinemaBits.