Sunday, November 2, 2008

Film Review: Changeling

Reviewed by Rachele

Clint Eastwood
Writer (WGA):
J. Michael Straczynski (written by)
Release Date:
31 October 2008 (USA) more
Biography | Crime | Drama | Mystery more
To find her son, she did what no one else dared.
A mother's prayer for her kidnapped son to return home is answered,
though it doesn't take long for her to suspect the boy who comes back is not hers.

The movie Changeling is a fascinating true story that almost seems unreal until you actually research it. The themes of the story, police corruption, a mothers' undying love and hope, is nothing new.Police corruption though may have been but back then it was seemingly impossible by regular citizens. You heard about such things in other countries not the good ol USA. Christine Collins would take that image and smash it to pieces all the while hoping to find her son.Overall Eastwood does a fairly good job of portraying the incompetence and downright pigheadedness of the LAPD, while also giving Christine a voice. It's done in a subtle way not smashed over your head pointing fingers type message.There are times though that both seem to go on a little too long.

The story is depicted as a "true story", no base on tagged on the front and yet it's not all there. Eastwood left some pretty big true plots out of the storytelling. The real murders known as the "Wineville Chicken Coop Murders", were not just by Gordon Northcott and Sanford Clark. Apparently Northcott's Mother/Grandmother was also involved and confessed to killing Walter Collins, though she recanted later. As well Northcott was a product of incest as his mother was really his grandmother who raised him after his father got their daughter pregnant with him. All of this was left out of the film and I'm not sure if it was a good idea. The film clearly puts the blame of Walters death not only on Northcott but on Clark as well. Nor is Northcott's family situation even mentioned. I guess Eastwood didn't want to focus so much attention on the killer or try to make him sympathetic as many movies now try to do with some true based stories. The image of a grandmother killing kids would also not go over well with audiences.

The film again does a good job of not hitting you over the head about the incompetence of the LAPD. Not until near the end do you really get riled up about what really happened to Christine Collins. The film flowed together, from Christine's search and the LAPD's supposedly finding Walter to revealing the LAPD's corruption and stubbornness on to depicting what really was happening to the boys. I didn't feel either side was abandoned or went off track, only that it may have gone on a little to long. Perhaps it was needed as the ending tries to justify Christine's eternal hope that her son was still alive. Still it could have been cut and had a text based ending. You almost feel exauhsted by the end even though it's not a long film and does move at a decent pace. When Northcott is finally gone from the picture I felt the movie could have ended there, there is a climax of sorts and then it's over, but you go on for a good 15 mins or more before the final end.

As for the acting, fairly good all around, though the look for Christine was distracting. While I love Jolie and feel she is a very good actress when given the right script, her looks often distract you from her performances and I felt this is one film that such a situation happened. I couldn't get over the skinniness or the red lipstick that continually made her stand out from everyone in the film, in every scene she was in. In fact the makeup was just too off with her the whole movie. I accept the fact that real life people are never going to be depicted the same way by Hollywood, or at least rarely depicted correctly but still they didn't get if fully right. Jolie's performance was very good, but her look was just too distracting. A nude or neutral lipstick I think would have made a big difference with looks and some more weight would have helped as well. We are talking 1928, a woman who was at least 30 perhaps with a kid. Jolie just looked too skeleton and pale.Her performance did move you and I felt was real. The pain she has as the LAPD first dismiss her case and then the indignation and humiliation she goes through were all done with great flare and emotion. You can also understand how bewildering it must have been for her to have her own police question her like that and treat her with such disdain. Back then regular citizens believed in the police, gave them support and didn't really question anything they did as long as it didn't affect them. The film really shows Christine's naivety about the system, even when shes inside the asylum. Jolie really brought out Christine's trusting nature about such things and how confused she was as shes effectively blamed for her trust in the police.You feel her pain as she angerly and painfully cries out that the boy is not her real son and he knows it.

Jeffery Donavan was perfectly cast as Captian JJ Jones. I remember him as William Ivers on Crossing Jordan and he plays almost the same character, only here he is without any redeeming qualities. Jones's pigheadedness and general corruptness made you hate him more and more right until the end when his character gets his due. The stubbornness he displays and the excuses he gives grate on you throughout the movie. You really understand that he knew his mistake was made the moment Christine tells him the boy they brought back was not her son. From then on Donavan plays this character with so much spirit and inflection of voice and body. He's in front of the gun and desperately trying to get away from it but in the end takes the bullet.

Malkovich is his steady self, consistent and sympathetic. His character didn't really stand out even when he was on his pulpit or radio show blasting away at the LAPD and their Goon squads. The Reverand pushed Christine's story along and he was understanding of her in the end with her hope about her son. He didn't press her to forget her crusade but did try to pursade Christine to let go somewhat.

Northcott as played by Jason Harner was weird. Which I guess is what they were trying to convey over the screen. Even when he was angry he came off as almost fake. I'm not sure he was the best person to play the killer, someone who must have been cold blooded to sexually assult and kill all of these youngters. The chrarisma that must have been there was lost here. He's a pathetic character right until the end with his exucution and you just don't feel anything other than good ridance when he's dead.

This was beautifully shot, with the vehicals of old LA and the fedoras on all the cops. The scenery really brought you into the story, and one kept wishing it was the present for all the technology advances that could have helped in those days. From the phone switching company to the obviously placed ads for Ford, Eastwood created a wonderful atomsphere for the story to unfold.

I'd give this a soild 3, with very good acting, but a tad too long.

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