Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Clint Eastwood has a tendency to evoke strong reactions from critics, and their reaction usually tells you more about the critic than it does about the film. His “Changeling” is neither the masterpiece his worshippers declared at Cannes, nor the piece of shit New York critics have denounced it as in their early reviews. Were his name not attached to it, I have a feeling the reactions would be a lot more tempered, and you might get a few more reviews praising it as the strong, compelling, 1920s-era drama/mystery it is. Early on in the proceedings (dubbed “A true story”), Christine Collins’s (Angelina Jolie) son goes missing, but is recovered by the corrupt LAPD a few months later. Unfortunately, the boy they recovered is clearly not her son. For one thing, he’s five inches shorter, and circumcised. The police repeatedly insist Christine is mistaken, and encourage her to take some time to come to her senses. When she continually refuses to accept Boy A as her son, the police do everything in their power to shut her up, including committing her to a psychopathic ward. Eastwood’s murky cinematography and minimalist score are his noticeable touches here, but he mostly avoids his two biggest pitfalls: latent sentimentality and bland stoicism.

From Christine’s imprisonment on, things get significantly more complicated, and the story jumps in two or three different directions, making us wonder how exactly what we’re being shown relates to our central storyline. I found the shifting of genres/story strands compelling and unpredictable rather than schizophrenic (as some have criticized); this is largely due to, in a refreshing twist, a trailer that’s less revealing than it seems (Christine’s imprisonment to the psychiatric ward occurs at the 40 minute mark of the 140-minute film). Jolie’s part is undeniably pure Oscar bait – her level of suffering is seemingly increased in each scene – but as limited as the character’s scope is, she plays it beautifully. Some will surely grow sick of her screaming or crying, but she made Christine feel real to me, and it’s the first time I’ve been genuinely impressed with Jolie in a movie. Where the film falters is in its use of the supporting cast (I would’ve liked to see more of John Malkovich and Amy Ryan), and in Jolie’s final line of dialogue, which rung tremendously false to me. This likely won’t register with audiences in the way that “Mystic River” and “Million Dollar Baby” did – those are unquestionably better films – but it’s thoroughly absorbing serious fare with moments of real emotional power.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The film has gotten mixed reviews. I just hope Jolie is nominated for an Oscar. I believe she deserved one for her wonderful performance in A Mighty Heart. In the film I appreciated Jolie's subtle differences in her body language. She wasn't a tough woman like in Foxfire or Girl Interrupted. She was a vulnerable woman with a strong heart.

4:31 PM  

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