Feature adaptation of Roger Lewis' book about the actor best remembered for playing Inspector Clousseau in the Pink Panther movies, offering a glimpse into the many faces of Peter Sellers (Geoffrey Rush) to reveal how the comic genius teetered on the edge of insanity. The film traces the British actor's turbulent rise from the popular BBC radio presenter on 'The Goon Show' to one of the world's best-loved comic actors. As his career progresses, Sellers' private torment about his failure to reconcile his relations with women, celebrity and his many selves is divulged, as is his desperately low self-esteem despite critical acclaim and professional success. A searching look behind the mask of a comedy icon, through his rapid rise to fame, through his four marriages and several affairs.
As a fan of Peter Sellers' films, I was strangely disappointed with this interpretation, not because it portrayed Sellers as a disturbed brat over-protected by his overbearing and hideous mother (I think that all that had been well-aired in the past), but more because I just never connected with the style and manner of the storytelling.
Geoffrey Rush gives a commendable performance in the title role, but here again I thought that the script was spread too thin in order to hammer home all the points of his life in 120 minutes. As a result it came across as merely a series of set-piece scenes to make each point and therefore seemed disjointed.
I was cautious about this film, mostly because I know Sellers is a hard act to pull off convincingly. Fortunately Geoffrey Rush has done his homework, and not only looks like the man but manages to act like him, he's as close as you'll likely get to the real man via an actor playing him.
Sellers was well known as a complicated character, behind the comic genius was a troubled man who had difficulty with family, marriage and his children. His relationship with his parents also is shown in quite some detail (or in the case of his father a distant/vacant relationship)
The film starts off with Sellers trying to break into TV, but seemingly having difficulty doing so. However his mother Peg (Miriam Margolyes) spurs him on, clearly showing some control over the man... a reflection on his childhood no doubt. Sellers persistence pays off and he starts stage work moving into film production later on.
Supporting cast is good with the ever reliable Emily Watson as Anne Sellers, later we have Charlize Theron playing Britt Ekland. Sonia Aquino also does justice to her Sophia Loren portrayal.
Sellers life is explored, and some, but not all of his film work covered. This concentrates on the man, but at times you will feel the talent is tainted with the almost self destructive behaviour that he follows, affairs, health problems, his detached and indifferent relationship with his children, and a man who appears as a shell waiting to jump into his next film character. Even Sellers himself was well quoted as saying, "If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am"
The film is well directed, and acted and provides a unique look at his life. It doesn't pull any punches which I feel is noteworthy and desired, but you will walk away with very mixed feelings about the man. His comic genius remains intact, but his personal life was clearly a mess. However Rush and his excellent performance shine through, the film is good, not quite top tier but a hard task for any film maker. It's indicative of many well known stars, talent mixed in with a difficult personal life, magic and madness. A very interesting film, and worth a watch.
The films starts with a public Goon show studio recording - and why not? It seems the perfect place to start!
We are given a glimpse of Sellar's home life, his strong relationship with his mother and his frustration at receiving so many rejections from the film industry. But after a cheeky stroke of audition genius and a quick montage, we are presented with Peter Sellers the successful British Academy award winning actor.
He is charmingly delusional, but this leads him to show a cold insensitivity towards his family. He doesn't seem to know or even care that he is hurting his wife and children, he's like a child living in his own world where he is at the centre of his own universe. When you see that he really does seem like a child then you start to understand where all the silly voices come from, it also explains why he is still very much attached to his mother's apron strings. Instead of looking at him as a cruel man, you view him as someone who struggles to understand the complexities of adult relationships, he just knows what he wants and sets out to get it - and being eminently charming and something of a national treasure, he tends to get it.
Geoffrey Rush convinces as Sellers, he has incorporated many of Sellers' characteristics into his performance, little nuances and expressions that capture the man. He certainly sounds like Sellers and the make up gives his profile an eerily Sellers' like appearance. Rush plays Sellars over a period of three decades and grows into the role, as his Seller's ages he looks more like him. If you're a fan of Peter Sellers then you'll notice little details and jokes from his films popping up in this biopic, and Rush even appears as some of the other characters in the film - surely a nod to Seller's almost trademark ability to lay several characters in a film.
In a nutshell: Watching a popular character get dissected on screen is always risky as you'll no doubt see things you don't really want to see. This film is no exception and we get to see the ugly side of Peter Sellers, it's not all funny voices and slapstick. He doesn't come across as a monster though - instead you almost pity him and his inability to grasp the reality of his life, instead preferring to view things as he wants them to be.