Monday, June 21, 2010

100 years, 100 films 12: The Kid (1921)

Charlie Chaplin is really difficult to talk about critically. He is so ludicrously iconic and overrated that you feel the need to justify why you don't think that he is the greatest comedian in the history of ever. And then, on the flip side, if you do enjoy his films, if you find him legitimately funny, then you find yourself sort of making excuses for it, because even if you do like him, you just can't like him that much. It would be virtually impossible. So you just sort of end up feeling vaguely ashamed that you like him, because after all, all the cool kids like Buster Keaton. Only losers like Chaplin.

So I've been putting off writing this review for a few days now, and trying to decide what tone to take. Should I criticise the film for its ridiculous levels of sentimentality? Should I argue against the basic uninventiveness of the gags - the fact that there is nothing nearly so clever in this movie than there is in, say, Harold Lloyd's Safety Last, or even Keaton's oft-derided College? Or should I praise the fact that, although there aren't any big, clever, ground-breaking jokes, many of the jokes that are there are legitimately funny? Should I claim that there are scenes in this film of legitimate sweetness - such as the little boy making Chaplin breakfast in bed? Should I praise, or criticise? What do I think of this movie?

And after several days of thinking, I've decided that I think it was pretty good. Fuck being hipster-cool, and fuck being some douchebag I-uncritically-love-all-classics moron. I'm taking the middle ground, where this film belongs. It isn't a great film, but it is good. Yes, the sentimentality can become mawkish at times, and yes, the film is lacking any big comedic set pieces. But it's a nice, funny, gentle sort of a comedy, and it did make me happy.

I don't get the ending, though. I mean, what's going on? Are the tramp and the actress living together? Are they sharing ownership of the kid? Is the tramp just stopping by the actress' house, saying a final goodbye to the boy he loved as a son? It's just a really ambiguous ending, and I don't think the movie means for it to be ambiguous. I'm pretty sure the movie is just going for the happiest ending it could possibly show, and who the hell cares if it makes no sense? Well, movie, I care that it makes no sense. I didn't like you quite enough to forgive you for just ceasing to mean anything at the end.

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