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The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)
IMDB Rating: 7.0/10 from 12,577 votes
Release: 20 January 2005 (Netherlands) /

The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)

Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama, Romance
Director: Stephen Hopkins,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: The professional and personal life of actor and comedian Peter Sellers was a turbulent one. His early movie fame was based primarily on his comic characterizations, often of bumbling and foreign-accented persons, characters which he embodied. As his movie fame rose, he began to lose his own personal identity to his movie characters, leading to self-doubt of himself as a person and a constant need for reassurance and acceptance of his work. This self-doubt manifested itself in fits of anger and what was deemed as arrogance by many. In turn, his personal relationships began to deteriorate as his characterizations were continually used to mask his problems. His first wife, Anne Howe, left/divorced him and his relationships with his parents and children became increasingly distant. His relationship with his second wife, Swedish actress Britt Ekland, was based on this mask. In his later life, he tried to rediscover himself and his career with what would become his penultimate film role, ... Written by Huggo

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Critic Reviews


Let there be no doubt that Peter Sellers would be an enormously difficult part to play. He has to be one of the few actors in film history who is more complex than the characters he played. (unless one considers actors such as Paul Walker... let me rephrase that, one of the few TALENTED actors) And it would be hard to imagine the man who is still infamously remembered as Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series being played in as flawless a manor as by Geoffrey Rush here. He wasn't the most obvious choice to play Peter Sellers, but he proved to be the wisest one. The man deserves countless praises, not only for playing Sellers himself to perfection, but also for flawlessly re-creating pretty much every film and radio role Sellers ever played, from Dr. Strangelove to Chance the gardener to Clouseau himself. (beginning in a hilarious sequence on an airplane when Sellers hassles an airline stewardess in Clouseau character) But it doesn't stop there - all throughout his life (or at least so shown here) Sellers struggled with the notion that despite the rampant personalities of his screen personas, Peter the man never really had much of a personality himself. To show this, Sellers reenacts sequences of his real life with himself playing different characters. It is in these delusional sequences that Rush shows his true mastery - he doesn't give us "Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers' mother", he gives us "Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers as Peter Sellers' mother". Words can't describe the amount of recognition Geoffrey Rush deserves, and a solitary Golden Globe simply doesn't do him justice.

Despite the fact that virtually the whole show centers around Rush and his masterful performance, he is backed up by a strong supporting cast and crew. Director Stephen Hopkins was also an odd choice for the project, given his past credentials ("Lost in Space"? "Predator 2"?)but he proves to have the cheeky sense of humour the film needed to be taken seriously, starting off with a surreal 60's style animation sequence with Sellers showing clips from his own life. And it's nice to see some higher profile actors taking the back seat here, such as Charlize Theron, delightfully ditzy and yet not quite a parody as Sellers' airheaded second wife Britt Eckland. Emily Watson brings class and understated strength to her role as Ann, Sellers' first wife, and, as we are led to believe, the only woman he ever truly loved. (despite the fact he left her and their children to pursue a relationship with Sophia Loren which never happened) Stanley Tucci plays Stanley Kubrick in a brief yet important role during the filming of Dr. Strangelove - his eyes showed what his words could not: how irresponsible and hazardous to he production he perceived Sellers to be. Miriam Margoyles, better known as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter series is formidable as Peter's domineering, manipulative mother, portrayed as the main reason for Sellers' fractured state of reality. And John Lithgow is an excellent Blake Edwards, blending his eternal optimism and energy with a sense of self pride, which he is forced to swallow, asking Sellers to return for numerous Pink Panther sequels. Lithgow, with his obnoxious laugh, is a constant high point throughout the film.

Yet, after the viewing is finished, the watcher feels strangely empty. Sure it looked classy, and it felt classy to watch, so why shouldn't it be classified as a great movie? Perhaps it's because 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers' feels more like a series of snapshots, and not like a proper biography. We are presented with WHAT Sellers did in his lifetime, but never really shown WHY. There's an irritating lack of depth, which the viewer fails to notice during the movie, so captivated are we with Rush's wonderful acting. But when we reflect on the film afterwards, we realize that we still don't really know who Peter Sellers is. We know what he did, but not why he did it. This may be an intentional decision on Hopkins' part, because, as we are led to believe, Sellers didn't really understand himself that well. So no one really knew who Peter Sellers was... not even himself. And we should be content with that.

-8/10

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