Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chaplin offers a fine biography of the creative genius cum movie pioneer who created the Tramp. Starting with Chaplin’s debut at the age of about 4 when he wowed a London music hall audience and continuing till he was an 80 year old married to a child bride, Chaplin acquaints viewers with a view behind the Little Tramp.
Some highlights were Chaplin meeting and wooing Hetty Kelly, “the one who got away,” and a slapstick inspired sequence when Charlie, his brother, sister-in-law and editor hide film that the government wants to confiscate. It was a delightful way to show Chaplin’s style while showing his real life. Robert Downey Jr. does a fine job capturing Chaplin’s sensitivity, though the scenes when he plays 80-something Chaplin, I felt his make up was overdone.
There were some actors whose fame overshadowed their character. Dan Ackroyd did a fine job, but while watching I kept thinking “that’s Dan Ackroyd as Mack Sennet or “is that Anthony Hopkins as the editor”? (It was.) I’m not sure why their character didn’t shine through more.
Roger Ebert criticized the film because the focus was more on Chaplin’s sex life than on his creative life. That was true and it would be interesting to see a genius struggle more with his creations. Since Chaplin would redo scenes and scripts hundreds of times till they were perfect, we know he struggled. While his penchant for young, very young women, is unusual and should be covered in a biopic, I’d have liked to see a more sophisticated look at his personal life, while keeping it in the background and moving his achievements to the front.