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Changeling (2008)

To find her son, she did what no one else dared.

Directed by:

Clint EastwoodClint Eastwood

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 141 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

I’m a big Clint Eastwood fan, both acting and directing-wise, so in that respect I looked forward to Changeling. Also, it looked like an intriguing story. I have this inexplicable aversion to Angelina Jolie, though—I don’t particularly despise her or anything, but I definitely enjoyed her more back when she made out with her brother and drank Billy Bob Thornton’s blood or whatever—ever since she went all U.N. and started making Benetton ads as Christmas cards, she always seems to have this air of satisfied sleepiness, like she’s not all the way there. She’s pretty good in this one, though, despite what you may have heard.

Working mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) has spent nine years raising her son Walter on her own, but one day, her worst nightmare comes true and she comes home from work to find him missing. Five months go by with no sign of Walter, and then miraculously he is found—except it’s not Walter. No matter how much Christine protests, everyone in authority insists she is either crazy or trying to shirk her “motherly responsibilities” by denying this strange new boy in her home, and as her outrage becomes more strident, so does her punishment—and all the while, the clock is still ticking and Walter is still missing.

Critics didn’t love this when it came out, and it seemed that if you liked Gran Torino, you couldn’t like Changeling, and vice versa. Well, I enjoyed both, in some ways for the same reasons. They’re just good, solid dramas. It’s a relief, sometimes, to just be immersed in a movie that tells a story. Jolie is uneven in some ways, though believable—she pulls off the strong woman determined to find her son and the confused, almost passive woman being bamboozled by the L.A.P.D. equally well, but, as written, the two facets of this heartbroken mother don’t quite connect. The movie itself fares better—almost like a film from days gone by, what with the totally detestable Capt. J. J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), the horror movie-like “psychopathic” ward, and Jolie’s impossibly red lips, Eastwood keeps things from ever feeling slow or tiresome by giving even the scenes that don’t offer all that much in the way of moving the action along complex levels of authenticity. There are instances where things seem almost cartoonish, however, where villains and circumstances are almost too unbelievably BAD, and where John Malkovich’s flamboyant whistle-blowing radio preacher is both a hero and a provider of some very earnestly corny dialogue. Almost like a detective novel, Changeling gives us moments to cheer and boo, but when it’s all over and you think back on it, the film as a whole, while ultimately satisfying, may prove to have been better while being watched than upon reflection.

It's Got: Time period authenticity, good old fashioned storytelling, twists and turns.

It Needs: More cohesiveness in the lead character, to turn it down a notch or two.

DVD Extras Two Featurettes: “Partners in Crime: Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie”; “The Common Thread: Angelina Jolie Becomes Christine Collins”. DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

A Mighty Heart, Batman Begins, Mystic River

Summary

Changeling is solid drama from Eastwood and Jolie, and despite some over the top characterizations, it’s definitely a suspenseful tale of a corrupt system and the woman brave enough to take it on to save her son.

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