The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (2004)

LifeandDeath2It was a known fact that Peter Sellers thought very little of his own self. He had a love-hate relationship with his own persona as a man who both hated and thought very highly of himself and such is shown in the new and first biographical picture of Peter Sellers, the genius behind films like “Dr. Strangelove” and the “Pink Panther” films, a man who was revered as a comedy genius during life and after his death. What is suggested here is that he was such a miserable man and such a mama’s boy, that he could never find true happiness with a woman in his life, regardless of who it was and what happiness they offered him as is shown by his countless wives including his first Anne (Good performance from Emily Watson), to his unsuccessful romancing of Sophia Loren (The gorgeous Sonia Aquino).

Along with the aforementioned, are good performances from people like Charlize Theron, Stanley Tucci, and John Lithgow who plays Sellers’ only friend director Blake Edwards. The only person who really knew how to play Sellers’ game and dominate him. Much like “Citizen Kane”, he was missing something in his life, and all the cars, houses, and money in the world couldn’t buy him what he was looking for. Not even his children could offer him what he wanted in life. It’s suggested what he really wanted in life was his mother’s approval which he could never get–or, perhaps what he wanted was his mother as many scenes hint at. He wanted approval from her that she never gave, always dictating his life and career moves, nothing was ever really good for her, so it was never good enough for Peter in the long run until she approved of it, which was a basic fat chance.

Nothing he ever did for himself, for his health, was ever a good enough prospect, whether losing weight to fit the ideal self-image for himself, and buying house after house after house just to feel comfortable, nothing was good enough. The film does not attempt to gloss over and make Sellers a saint, it’s a true depiction, a true look at a man who was not a good person, a man who was concerned with himself and only he in the long run regardless of who loved him, and this doesn’t attempt to prove otherwise. Sellers was not a good person to be around, nor was he to admire, but you have to appreciate his comedic genius, which is what I do. Sellers was excellent as an actor, failure as a human being however who thought family was nothing but a burden, and women nothing but tools to get places and achieve personal goals. There’s a double victory here behind Rush’s performance that inadvertently occurs.

Not only, do we, as an audience, get to see what a chameleon-like and brilliant actor Peter Sellers was, but we also get to see what every critic in Hollywood is talking about when they talk about Geoffrey Rush. Rush also proves here he can embody every character as Sellers could and is excellent here. One of my favorite actors of the modern era, Geoffrey Rush is incredible here, and simply embodies Sellers as he sets out to do and makes it look so damn easy as well. He goes away from Rush and becomes Sellers, he takes his form with so much skill that it should be considered an accomplishment, one that I expect an Emmy for. Also, what becomes a victory as well is that Rush gives the best Cleauseau impression I’ve ever seen. When Sellers becomes Cleauseau for the first time aboard an airplane and gets into character, it was like watching magic before our eyes. The scenes where he embodies the people in his life are annoying, and completely distract from the actual movie regardless of how arty they try to make it look.

His attempt and hope to take the people in life and make them do what he would have hoped they’d done by controlling them is symbolic of his need to control things and people, but it’s not enjoyable, nor is it appealing. The artsy sides of the film with the slow motion, out of film sequences, hazy dreamy love scenes and everything else isn’t all that necessary and really just subtracted all real emotion and sentimentality from the actual movie at hand and I never cared for it. What was the point of these scenes other than to attempt to look like an art film? This was nothing more than a bio picture, so why attempt to dress it up as an art independent film? What was truly disappointing is, we always got to see Peter Sellers the person, but we never got to really take a look at Peter Sellers the comedic actor. As many bio pictures, we see the man but not the genius, or we see the genius and not the man, but here it’s the first. We hardly get to see him in his process for preparing for the role of Inspector Cleauseau, nor do we see him doing a lot of the preparations for the Dr. Strangelove characters.

Where were the scenes involving his creative process? Where were scenes where we’d witness the man who could embody any characters? Not here, unfortunately. Many actors have come before Rush to take the helm of Cleauseau, but Rush does the best I’ve seen–ever, because not only does he look like Sellers doing it, but he sounds like Seller doing the character. Then there’s the “Dr. Strangelove” sequence which only flexes Rush’s impressions even more that make this movie what it is, a true portrait of a human being, a man who was misunderstood and hated, but revered for his comedy. Rush is brilliant here, and Hopkins uses him to the fullest of extents right down to the poetic symbolic final moments of the film which were just amazing. This is a marvelous movie, and a very good biographical picture of a human being who made people laugh, but could never find the humor in his own life.