(originally posted at crw.vox.com)
I used to watch The Pink Panther and listen to Goon Show episodes with my father, so I've just about always considered myself a Peter Sellers fan. As such, I've avoided The Life and Death of Peter Sellers as I was afraid that the reality of his life would take something away from my view of him as an actor. Kind of like how Chevy Chase wasn't quite so funny after I found out he was a complete jackass.
Last night I was at the video store and I couldn't bring myself to rent the new Pink Panther flick with Steve Martin and Jean Reno. It might have had something to do with my absolute loathing of Beyonce. Instead I finally broke down and picked up The Life and Death of Peter Sellers.
At first I was really disappointed by the writing and direction. Geoffrey Rush's performance was also particularly irksome at first. I just didn't see the Peter Sellers in him. The stand-out actors were Emily Watson (yeah, that blind chick from Red Dragon) and the children. As the movie went on, Rush fell more into character - or I got tired and stopped noticing how bad it was. The plot device of interjecting Rush in the guise of those people most important to him to deliver monologues to the audience also seemed particularly insipid but got better over time.
The movie was not without bits of charm sprinkled here and there. ("Do you still love us, Daddy?" "Of course I do, just not as much as I love Sophia Loren.", etc.). I wish more time was spent exploring the relationship between Sellers and Blake Edwards. I hadn't quite realized how rocky their relationship was. Also left undeveloped in the movie was Sellers' relationship with his children. Instead the writer/director seemed to want to focus on Sellers' relationship with women, yet only two of his four wives appeared in the film. One of those was dreadfully played by Charlize Theron.
Sadly, the Sellers I thought I knew through his characters is now forever lost. The innocence of his gags is now tainted by knowledge that he was, in his own special way, a jackass. The only good I can say about the film is that it made me want to read Being There.