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Chaplin

Year: 1992
Production Co: Carolco
Studio: Tristar
Director: Richard Attenborough
Producer: Mario Kassar
Writer: David Robinson/Charles Chaplin/Diana Hawkins/William Boyd/Bryan Forbes/William Goldman
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Geraldine Chaplin, Moira Kelly, Anthony Hopkins, Dan Aykroyd, Marisa Tomei, Penelope Ann Miller, Kevin Kline, Milla Jovovich, Kevin Dunn, Diane Lane, James Woods, Nancy Travis, David Duchovny, Alan Ford

Richard Attenborough has the sets, the costumes, the period detail, the actors and the script. But this biopic suffered from the same pedestrian, workaday feel that afflicted In Love and War, a sense of staginess that's hard to describe but easy to spot when it appears.

It's partly the age of the film – if you compare it to many films of today, 20 years hence (even ones in the 'fantastic' genres), today's directors have a more sense or urgent realism, perhaps because so few of them have classical theatre training like the elder statesmen of the industry did even as late as the 90s.

Aside from that it's a very interesting take on the life and times of Charlie Chaplin, all told in flashback from his Swiss estate as he meets with his editor over the book that'll become his autobiography.

George (Hopkins) has come to visit the aged, ailing director in the 60s to ask about several periods of his life most people would think important but which Chaplin has glossed over, particularly when it comes to family and his several marriages to women far too young for him.

The script intimates Chaplin spent his life chasing the innocent, sweet girl he fell in love with as a young vaudeville performer in his native impoverished England. Later on, on the cusp of a king's life in America as a rich and famous film director, Chaplin learns of her premature death in the influenza epidemic and seems to spend the rest of his life refusing to grieve but seeing her in every underage starlet he seduced and invariably married.

Before drugs consumed his own life, Downey Jr gave a great performance as Chaplin and as always it's interesting to see real people bought to life in front of you. Geraldine Chaplin plays her own grandmother, Douglas Fairbanks (Kline) realises their time is over before Chaplin does and J Edgar Hoover (Dunn) manically pursues Chaplin, believing him a communist and finally succeeding in having him barred from living in the US.

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