I remember seeing that this got played on cable all the time, when I was growing up. But I never watched it. I think I may have turned it on and seen a couple of scenes, but I just don't think I saw it as something which was 'my thing'. But as I got older I became a fan of Charlie Chaplin's films and the music he composed. As you could imagine I was pretty happy when I managed to score the DVD of Chaplin. But for some strange reason I did not watch it for about a year. Sickening right? When I finally watched it, I was so overcome with emotion. I was so happy but at the same time I was sad and frustrated with how unfairly Chaplin was treated by the US government and how all he wanted to do was love someone on the same level that he loved performing.
The film does revolve around a lot of his romances with several famous actresses, and most of the relationships he did have with women did turn out to be quite empty. They had nothing to really offer him that he could truly connect with or cherish. Deep down you can see that Chaplin wants to love and be loved by someone who is just pure happiness and pure joy. He wants to feel the same way about a person, the way his audience would feel about his films. A lot of his films were released during the great depression, and people would save up money to be able to go and see one of Chaplin's movies. That's how much love they had for this man.
Another factor which is explored in this film, is the relationship he had with his mother Hannah. She was mentally ill and could not provide for Charlie and his older brother Sydney. Charlie then admits her into an asylum, as much as it broke his heart, he just didn't know how to deal with it, and it was probably the only thing he could do for her. It is heartbreaking to see him having to make this choice, and even more heartbreaking to see her deteriorate as an old woman. And again Charlie doesn't know how to deal with it. He says he would just throw money at her, because he believed it was the only thing he could offer her. You could see Chaplin was capable of showing so much emotion in his films, but in his private life, it looks like the complete opposite. Charlie Chaplin was in a league of his own, and in some ways an outsider. He was one of only the celebrities at the time who had some real substance and heart, and while he was an outsider in the celebrity world, his audience connected and understood him. And that is what kept him making film. You could see the struggles he had to overcome as an actor and a film maker because he wanted to stay pure, be very opinionated and honest, whereas people wanted to see him as a puppet now that he was making people a lot of money. They didn't care about the integrity of what he was trying to convey in his films, and that is what separated him from everyone else. Some may say an outsider in terms of film making. But when you think about it, he was just ahead of the pack.
This film has definitely divided critics, most of which do slam the film, and calling it a 'slick looking' biopic with not a lot of substance. Comments like that piss me off a lot. Why? Because people tend to think a biopic has to be extremely 'gritty' or extremely sad and 'middle of the road'. I find biopic's like the Iron Lady or The King's Speech stale and boring, yet they get critical acclaim and win a bucket load of Oscars. And just because a film has a comedy element and isn't 'playing by the rules' in terms of how a biopic should be, it doesn't mean it should be seen as empty. Watching Chaplin, reminded me of his own feature films, because of how the characters interacted with one another and how it was shot, and the music that was used. It has a tonne of brilliant elements to it, which people don't see. They just dismiss it and call it mediocre and empty.
Here is a scene where Chaplin has been told his first real love Hetty is dead. The emotion that takes over his face is just indescribable. His eyes look dead and you can just see his heart split into millions of pieces. He gave Hetty a piece of himself before he left for the USA. Regardless of who he was with after he left England, you can tell a strong part of him belonged to Hetty. And when you hold onto something like that, the way Chaplin did, it is one of the most heartbreaking things to see on screen. He is then faced with meeting his fans directly after he has been told this information and when asked what was he going to do, he just replies with 'Smile'.
I feel people are all trained in their mind on how a film should end, and how a film genre should be portrayed. There are rules to be followed. And as soon as they step out of those rules, the film is declared as crap or average and then tossed away and forgotten. And that is what I believe happened to the film Chaplin. I have shown many people this film, who have never seen it before and are shocked they have never heard of it. But the people that I have shown this film to, have loved it and could see all the amazing things that I continue to see, every time I watch it. Chaplin is my favourite film to watch when I am sad. It is the ultimate cheer up movie. It is so comforting to see a man, who went through a lot emotionally in his private life, but all he wanted to do was perform and make people smile. And that shows a strong character and when you are sad and watching this film, it makes you think, 'I'll be okay'. It is a comforting movie which can warm up any heart, even mine.