Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Changeling

The film Changeling may not be Clint Eastwood's (Mystic River) best directorial achievement because of some loopholes in the script. However, one shouldn't be dismayed by the performance given by the cast. Besides, after she starred in so many questionable flicks, it was - pardon my language - bloody time that Angelina Jolie was offered a role allowing her to showcase her talent.

Based on a true story, Changeling takes place in Los Angeles in 1928. On March, 10, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a single mother, reports the disappearance of her son Walter after she returns home from work. After five months of investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Capt. J.J. Jones and Chief James E. Davies affirm to Christine that her son was found and a reunion will be organized with the presence of the press. However, as Christine expresses more and more her conviction that the boy is categorically not her son (i.e. three inches shorter and circumcision), she looks for the help of Gustav Briegleb, a preacher with a radio show who wants to expose the LAPD's corruption. Besides using the newspapers to label Christine's negligence of her "son", the LAPD also throws Christine in an asylum because another investigation shows that Walter might still be missing.

Obviously, the script shows Eastwood's knack for unearthing good stories. Unfortunately, the storyline suffers from scriptwriter J. Michael Straczynski's historical bias, so to speak, toward the LAPD. While we get to know about Capt. J.J. Jones' desire to throw Christine in an asylum through what his words suggest during a trial, the movie doesn't explore thoroughly the 5 months investigation. Sure, we know that the young boy brought to Los Angeles from De Kalb, Illinois, is definitely not Christine's son, but the movie doesn't explore the LAPD's perspective to answer this question: why was the investigation so sloppy given the look on Capt. J.J. Jones' face on the day when the young boy is "brought" back to Christine?

In the end, speaking about that investigation, viewers are only left with things that revolve around Christine and Detective Lester Ybarra, a LAPD officer who believes her and who's impeccably played by Michael Kelly (Generation Kill). Thus, Changeling will probably not win (nor be nominated for) the Academy Award for best movie because of this minor flaw in the script: the one-sided portrayal of the corruption that is sullying the LAPD.

Despite that, Angelina Jolie performance seemed well to me given that she has, most of the time, starred in questionable films over the last - let's say - ten years. However, just like Norma, I hardly think that Jolie is the appropriate person to play her character, because the real Christine Collins wasn't that beautiful if you look into the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Database. Nonetheless, Jolie deserves recognition for her work and she's well supported by other members of the cast, especially Michael Kelly and Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), who plays a fellow inmate.

Finally, Changeling is a rather effective drama from Eastwood, as a director. In fact, analogically, if wine gets better by ageing, Eastwood, on the other hand, seems to always be able to astonish us as time goes by. However, this film is certainly not perfect. Besides, if this film doesn't get at least some Academy Award nominations concerning some cast members' performance, then Eastwood can accuse the Academy of robbing him.

Rating: 3.5/5


Changeling
USA (2008)
Length: 141 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Screenplay: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jeffrey Donovan, John Malkovich, Michael Kelly, Colm Feore and Amy Ryan

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