Oddly affecting portrait of an inadequate genius
Peter Sellers said he was a man of many guises but had no personality of his own. Actually, he did, but it was an unpleasant one. Stephen Hopkins’ biopic pinpoints the source of his dysfunction?the unhealthily mutual affection between him and his mother which left him prone to tantrums and bursts of insecurity. This film is less a celebration of Sellers’ ‘genius’ than of his tragic inability to become a decent, loving human being, to exist independently of his acting props. If the film disappoints it’s partly because Sellers was such a disappointment? yet this also adds to its poignancy, thanks to Geoffrey Rush’s sensitive playing of an insensitive man. One effective device, at moments of high drama, is for Rush/Sellers to switch to playing the roles (in drag if necessary) of those nearest to him. It ironically points up the actor’s inability to connect with his supposed loved ones, including his mother, whose betrayal by Sellers is one of the film’s cruellest moments.