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The film is framed by an interview with Chaplin, who lives in exile at his Swiss home, conducted by George Hayden (Anthony Hopkins). From here, the plot flashes back to Chaplin's childhood and vaudevillian roots, as well as his troubles with his deranged mother, before his move to the western United States. It was in America where Chaplin discovered "flickers," or motion pictures as they're more commonly known. The film covers his first film work, for which Chaplin was hired by director Mack Sennett (Dan Akroyd), and also revisits the funnyman's later life run-ins with e United States government, which hounded Chaplin as being part of the Red Menace. Throughout his remarkable life, Chaplin's extreme fondness for women was a constant source of pleasure - and trouble, sometimes in the legal sense, as he had a taste for what Mary Pickford (Maria Pitillo) refers to as "jailbait." Also detailed in the film is Chaplin's strong friendship with Douglas Fairbanks, played by the excellent Kevin Kline, who unabashedly showboats his way through the role.
Even, or perhaps especially, in hindsight Downey seems a natural choice to take on the task of portraying Chaplin. As the result of an extensive preparatory immersion (in which he learned to play the violin), Downey completely takes on Chaplin's persona, especially when it comes to mimicking his slapstick foibles and classic eye twitches and gimpy walk, so recognizable from his trademark "Tramp" character. But for all the star's charms and the obvious talents of director Attenborough, Chaplin never rises above the trappings of its genre. Perhaps it is impossible to make a transcending biographical film about such an iconic artist - although Julian Schnabel would probably beg to differ, judging from his superior and more creative Basquiat.
The 15th Anniversary Edition of Chaplin contains several bonus featurettes, including a home movie of Chaplin on Catalina Island, a retrospective with David Attenborough, and two pieces on Chaplin's fame and contributions to the world of film. SEE ALSO: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Chaplin
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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