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A Glimpse at a Another Bit of Disturbing American History

Jul 4, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Outstanding performance by Angela Jolie; great supporting cast.

Cons:A little slow at times.

The Bottom Line:

A little plodding at times Changeling is a great film and I have little problem recommending it.


We Americans like to think that our justice system is the best in the world. That our rights, enshrined as they are in the under the Bill of Rights, can never be infringed upon, especially by those sworn to uphold the very cloth upon which they are printed.  How wrong we all are!  Indeed as Changeling (2008) proves in startling clarity, our rights are at the mercy of those charged with their protection and they, our rights, can and are violated at will by self-serving individuals with anything but Truth, Justice, and the American Way beating in their breasts. 

Story-Line

Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Blood Work, Flags of Our Father) Changeling chronicles the true story Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie - Girl, Interrupted, Taking Lives, Beowulf) a single mother whose son Walter (Gattlin Griffith) goes missing one day from their Los Angeles home in 1925.

Christine calls the police and after the mandatory 24-hour waiting period the much maligned Los Angeles Police Department starts looking for her son.  They think they have found him in DeKalb, IL and Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan - Burn Notice, Crossing Jordan) contacts Christine with the good news.  But when the boy arrives Christine insists that he is not her son and sets about proving it in a number of ways, but Captain Jones, fearful of how it will make him and the LAPD look, refuses to listen to her and when she goes to the press with her story he has her locked up in the Los Angles Country jail for the mentally disturbed without cause or warrant. 

Meanwhile, a local priest, one Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich - The Glass Menagerie, Dangerous Liaisons, Of Mice and Men), who has made it his duty to account LAPD corruption via his nightly radio show, comes to the aid of Christine, helps win her freedom from jail and puts her in touch with a note Civil Attorney who takes on her case. 

The plot in Changeling is quite involved, too involved to detail here, sufficed to say, the script is brilliantly done and recounts in some detail the events that transpired between 1925 and 1935.

My Thoughts
 
As the nexus of this tale Angeline Jolie as Christine does an excellent job of relating the kaleidoscope of emotions that must have made up Ms. Collins during this period of her life. Jolie never plays Christine over the top; indeed she imbibes the character with a quiet dignity; she is at times emotional, but never distraught to the point where she loses focus on her son and her determination to have him returned to her.  He was her world and her oft silent tear speak volumes about her private suffering at the hands of the Police Department more concerned about protecting itself than it is the citizens they serve.

However, Jolie at times, well, all of time, looked quite unhealthy; she is rail thin, which makes her rather pouty lips all the more distinguished.  Her face is so thin that often-times they, her lips took over her face.  And her insistence on wearing bright red lipstick did not help matter any!  Nevertheless, Jolie turns in a stirring and convincing performance, as did the rest of the cast.  And need I credit Eastwood's direction as suburb?  I Thought not.

The title, Changeling, and the trailers for the movie carry with them an allusion that this was to be a science fiction film and that the events that unfold, despite the fact that they're all very well recorded, are the stuff of fiction.  As an American raised on a constant diet of patriotism and American infallibility, it is almost impossible to believe that such things could have happened within recent memory, but they did, along with a host of other events that run contrary to the county's much polished image as the bastion of equal justice.  The fact that the events that unfold in Changeling serve to make the narrative all the more compelling story it tells is compelling, augmented by Eastwood's own musical score.  The result is gripping cinema, and certainly serves as one of Eastwood best films to date.

A little plodding at times Changeling is a great film.  Despite its length (141 minutes) the effective period design, subdued colors, and the suburb plot driven narrative grabbed my attention (and alright some of my emotion) with a firm grip as the story unfolds from Christine's point of view.  The cast does a marvelous job of dropping us into this sometimes unbelievable story.  I have little problem recommending Changeling.


Recommend this product? Yes

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