Why oh why do I still go back to biography pictures? I know that they are usually shit and yet I can’t resist a picture about a famous person whose life I want to know about am too lazy to read a biography book. Tell it to me in picture form! I guess that is what I thought when I saw that Chaplin was on Netflix Watch Instant the other day. I care about Chaplin’s output. I care about how Chaplin made his movies. But do I care about this white washed portrayal of essentially a megalomaniac who only likes very young women?

Chaplin stars Robert Downey Jr as the title character. We see Chaplin’s progression from being a vaudeville star to being an icon in American silent cinema and finally his deportation and asylum in a foreign country. Every little minute detail is covered in this extremely long snoozer. And we get to see the height of old age makeup circa 1992. (Just a warning: if you are studying to be a visual effect makeup artist, do not look at this movie for inspiration…)

How can a biopic about one of the greatest actors and directors be so insanely boring? A worship of an icon does not mean that you need to care about every little minute detail of his life. Oh and having him narrate his own story as he takes a very long walk with an empty Michael Caine is cliché even in 1992. I don’t care about Charlie Chaplin the statutory rapist. I don’t care about his house in Switzerland or his many failings as a person. I care about his art. I want to see how and why he made the pictures he did, not glimpses of his pictures in between scenes of him yucking it up with various young women. I don’t care. I feel like I am a broken record. The most effective biographical pictures whether they are documentary or fictional are most effective if you see one or two major events in the person’s life and use those events to construct a whole picture of who this person was/is. Is anybody freaking listening to me? Hello?


2 thoughts on “Chaplin

  1. That wasn’t Michael Caine, it was Anthony Hopkins. You’re close. 😉
    Chaplin is one of the few biopics I enjoy but it’s not without its flaws. Like you mentioned, the focus on the women and scandals of his life could have been toned down to make room for what’s really important: his work! I thought Robert Downey Jr. did a fantastic job. He did his homework.
    If you want something more insightful, I highly recommend the 2 hour documentary Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin.

    • ahhhh you got me! I wrote that post in a fit of anger and I didn’t fact check myself. To defend myself, Anthony Hopkins and Michael Caine take a lot of similar roles, especially in their later careers. Robert Downey Jr was good in the picture, but if it was more focused on a particular issue in Chaplin’s life I think it could have been a great performance. Instead it seemed like he was just rushing from one age to the next. Thanks for the recommendation. I will definitely have to check out that documentary sometime.

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