Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Chester Conklin
Director: Charlie Chaplin
Running Time: 87 mins
Modern Times is an American film about a man who meets a homeless woman after being fired from his job in a factory. With no money and nowhere to live, the two attempt to make a life together in the harsh modern world.
This is a fantastic film! Just as you expect from Charlie Chaplin, it’s insanely funny from start to finish, with heaps of brilliant slapstick and satire everywhere you look. However, Modern Times goes so much further than just providing laughs, by giving a fascinating and emotionally powerful commentary about modern life (which is still relevant 80 years later), as well as an offbeat but beautifully heartfelt love story.
I’ll get back to that later, because the main reason that you’ll watch this film is to have a good laugh, and it succeeds in that brilliantly. Chaplin keeps all of his comedy perfectly simple, quick-witted and consistently fresh. There’s never a moment when you feel as if a joke is going on too long, or doesn’t feel relevant to the story, which proves just how well-written the comedy here is, because that’s something really hard to do, even in the best of comedies.
And it’s not as if the comedy is in any way dated. Because the slapstick is so simple, made even better by the fact that this is a silent film, anyone of any age can laugh their socks off in Modern Times, but what’s most impressive is that the satire about ‘modern’ life (i.e. post-Great Depression) still feels very relevant nowadays. I was fascinated by the comments that this film was making about the plight of the average man, and felt perfectly able to relate to and understand everything that was being said, and as a result, have a good laugh at the jokes that were taking those themes into account.
The comedy in Modern Times was absolutely outstanding, and I firmly believe that anyone nowadays will be able to laugh as much as I did here, whilst I was also hugely impressed by the clever social satire and commentary that somehow manages to stay relevant to this day, but there’s one more part of this film that made it really stand out.
That’s the romance. Now, by no means is this a generic Old Hollywood romance, because it’s a really bittersweet love story, and that had such an unexpected emotional impact on me to really prove how good this film is. Playing alongside Chaplin is Paulette Goddard, as a homeless woman living by the harbour who, while running away from juvenile officers, runs into Chaplin. Whilst not as prevalent on screen as her co-star, Goddard is fabulous in the role, and her performance really brings to light the power of love in keeping up the spirits of these two characters in these desperate times. On the one hand, she’s smiley and upbeat about meeting Chaplin, but on the other, she has an air of loss and confusion about here that make her such a fascinating character to watch, and her relationship with the Tramp is even more intriguing.
Overall, I loved Modern Times. It’s a classic comedy that’s still unbelievably funny from start to finish, but its hugely intelligent social satire and commentary, along with a beautifully heartfelt love story, make it really stand out as a great film, and that’s why it gets an 8.6 from me.