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Changeling –the true tale of Christine Collins & the search for her missing son

May 13, 2010 (Updated May 13, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Angelina Jolie; disturbing themes; cleaver title

Cons:: may be too disturbing for some; possible the length

The Bottom Line: True-life events from almost 100 years ago chronicle the kidnapping of Walter Collins and the corruption of the 1920s LAPD and a lack of women’s rights.   




 "I used to tell Walter, "Never start a fight... but always finish it." I didn't start this fight... but by God, I'm going to finish it."

.
 
the plot

Christine Collins is a single mother raising her son in 1920s Los Angeles.  One day, as she returns home from work, her nine-year-old son Walter is missing.  After scouting the neighborhood all night, she calls the police.  The police claim that they cannot help her for a whole day just in case he ran away.  The come the next day, and open the case on her missing son Walter.  At the same time, there was a reverend named Dr. Gustav Briegleb who was very vocal on his radio show about his displeasure with the LAPD, calling them corrupt at the very least.  

Nearly a half-year had passed, and the police had found a young boy who claimed to be Walter Collins.  The police called Ms. Collins and a buttload of media to meet at the train station where the mother and son would reunite.  When the boy got off of the train, Christine Collins claimed that this boy was not her son.  The police tried to convince her that since it has been five months and they had both been through such an ordeal, that he looked different to her.  The boy stuck to his story, but after only a couple of days at home with the boy, she began petitioning the police to keep her son's case open because the boy who they brought to her is not her son.  Captain JJ Jones doesn't even want to hear what Christine Collins has to say, and even makes excuses when she brings up evidence that this boy is three inches shorter than Walter, or even that the imposter was circumcised.  He rather rationalize everything away, rather than the department get another hit to their already bad reputation.         

When Christine would not relent, Captain Jones had her admitted into a psych facility indefinitely or until she recants her story.  The reverend had been helping her, but for a while he was unable to find her when one Capt JJ Jones unjustly locked her up in the psych ward.  While incarcerated there, she found that many of these women were here only because they had crossed the LAPD and this was the best way to have them silenced.   Throughout all of her trials, Christine Collins had never given up hope that her Walter is still alive.                      

 
the breakdown

I shied away from this film only because of the title, which is practically identical to the old "horror" film from 1980.  I hated The Changeling with George C Scott, but I loved Changeling with Angelina Jolie as it turns out.  I think I'm like most people when it comes to Angelina Jolie and their general distaste for the "actress".  After viewing Changeling, again I think I have come to warm up to the actress.  Her performance was incredible, emotive, authentic, captivating and more.   Malkovich usually comes across as an odd dude for some reason, so I enjoyed his straight character of the good Reverend Gustav Breigleb.  He portrayed a man who while very vocal about the corrupt LAPD became a heroic voice for the woman along the way.  I'm not sure of what the true purpose of the reverend was, but it seems like here that he accidentally stumbled into the voice for at least of group of women who had been unjustly persecuted because of their sex at such a point in America's history.

Speaking of America's history, what a long way we have come in such a relatively short time span.  This film takes place in 1928, and women had the right to vote in the US for the past eight years, but I suppose they were still looked upon as second-class citizens by most.  Even a woman such as Christine Collins, a woman who was a mother, owned her own home, and worked at a job that made her and her son somewhat comfortable; such a female must have been a rarity in these times.  Angelina certainly looked the part in her fashionable cloche hat and her world was ensconced within the fabulous set design surroundings of yesteryear only added to the authenticity.

Well, just because the film looks beautiful doesn't mean that you're not going to get angry with this story.  Any rational human being would become furious with the outright corruption of the LAPD, and the power that they had no problem abusing on the people, especially the women.  [Having said this, I just wanted to say that the psycho woman I work with, while discussing this film, actually sided with the police as she had gotten fed up pretty quickly with Christine's Collins' consistent statement, "he's not my son."  How can someone be such a proud dunce? ].   Corruption is evil, abhorrent and despicable and yet we deal with it every day, in our schoolyards, our schools and universities, where we work, and especially in the White House.  Usually, it's not as concentrated as it shows in this film, but it is something that should constantly be exposed.  

The fact that this is a true story, and yet there are so many unexpected twists and turns plot-wise that it seems unbelievable that these events had actually taken place.  This film was almost directed by Ron Howard, but thankfully he passed on it in order to tackle his little Angels and Demons film.  Clint Eastwood was tapped to direct and it was a marriage made in heaven.  Clint's direction is felt in everyone's performance, yet especially that of Jolie and Jason Butler Harner who plays child killer Gordon Northcott.  

Every time I view this film, I fall in love with it a bit more.  Even the length of nearly two and a half hours isn't a problem as each scene is as gripping as the one preceding.  This is rated R for brief, but very violent scenes, and also some very brief use of strong profanity.  Other than that, the content is pretty tame.  You'll either love or hate this film or so it seems.  If you're somewhat like my insane coworker, you're probably going to hate it, but if you love good dramas, and gripping true stories like myself, you're going to love Changeling.  



Changeling

Directed by: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby)
Written by: J. Michael Straczynski (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Babylon 5)
Starring:  Angelina Jolie (Beowulf, Girl, Interrupted) John Malkovich (Beowulf, Being John Malkovich) Jeffrey Donovan (Believe In Me), Jason Butler Harner (Next, The Good Shepherd)
Length:  141 minutes
Rated: R  (strong violence, language)
Rating: 4 stars
 
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