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Changeling (2008) ***1/2

Rated: R
Runtime: 2hr 20min
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Michael Kelly, Jeffrey Donovan, Amy Ryan
Genre: Drama
Language: English

Eastwood and Jolie team up for a thriller

In a Nutshell

Plot

Straight as an Arrow
Twisty

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear
Incomprehensible

Who's That?

Few Main Characters
Lots

Naughty Words

Mild
Foul

Naked people

None
Lots

Violence

Tame
Bloody

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The last three films I have seen all contained bravura performances by the female leads. Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, Sally Hawkins in Happy Go Lucky (don’t miss it) and now Angelina Jolie in Changeling. Jolie’s searing portrayal of a woman who endures a parent’s worst nightmare will remain with you for some time. All three ladies will likely be vying for that gold statuette come Oscar time.

Clint Eastwood has once again created a film of complex issues and themes, as he did in Mystic River and Unforgiven. In Changeling, themes of decency, parental love and righteousness are explored, as well as issues of police corruption, false accusations and the rights of women are examined.

The film begins with the words, “a true story” and what a story it is! Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a single mother in Los Angeles in 1928. On a day when she unexpectedly has to work, she leaves her 9 year old son Walter at home alone. She arranges for a neighbor to look in on him and reminds him to not go outside. Working later than she expected, she returns home at dusk to the nightmare – Walter has disappeared! She notifies the police, who tell her that Walter will probably show up soon. As days go by - no Walter. Months pass and finally she is informed by the police that they have found her son. She goes to the train station to be reunited with him only to see upon their meeting that this boy is not her son. In an attempt to put the case to rest and gain some positive press coverage (sorely needed) the LA Police Dept. has devised this scheme in which they believe Christine will take part. Feeling sorry for the boy she takes him into her home. As time passes Christine becomes insistent that this boy is not her son. The police chief, Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) has her admitted to a mental institution stating that she doesn’t know her own son. Eventually Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) and the press become aware of what’s happening with Christine. Briegleb takes on her cause as a means to bring the corruption of the LA Police Dept. to light. He along with an attorney do succeed  in aiding Christine and blowing open the door on the wrongs that have been done to her and other women in the asylum.

This is all fine, except where is Walter? Christine doggedly continues her search for her son. As she does, a story of a serial killer in LA erupts on the audience like a volcano. We are shocked as the film veers in another direction. There are taut and harrowing sequences of kidnapping, child molesting, murder and retribution. The film has become a thriller. Somehow all of this is connected to the disappearance of Walter. There is so much more that happens before the case of Walter Collins concludes that you surely will be shocked.

The performances by everyone here are excellent. Jeffrey Donovan and  Amy Ryan shine, but it is Michael Kelly as the cop who puts together the pieces of the puzzle who carries the last part of the film. Angelina Jolie is wonderful. Eastwood shoots her in numerous close-ups, showing a face that is at times distraught, fearful and vengeful and at rare times satisfied. She demands the camera and it is given to her and she knows what to do with it. This is a star role in the vein of A Mighty Heart, a movie she carried. In Changeling she one ups herself, it’s a great performance.

Just a word for the faint of heart, there are scenes of disturbing violence involving children. That aside, the film is moving, gripping and memorable.

A former teacher of English Literature, Paul J. Cassese taught in the NYC school system for more than thirty years. Paul enjoyed taking the wonderful film courses of Richard Brown and Scott Siegel, and is excited about his new role as an online film reviewer. Going to the movies has been a passion of Paul’s since boyhood. Paul thanks his dad for passing that on to him.

Comments

e leviton said on October 30, 2008

 


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Once again you captured the essence of this true heartwrenching story! Keep your critiques coming!

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