**** (out of 5)
October 31, 2008
Angelina Jolie as CHRISTINE COLLINS
John Malkovich as GUSTAV BRIEGLEB
Jeffrey Donovan as CAPTAIN JONES
Colm Feore as CHIEF DAVIS
Amy Ryan as CAROL DEXTER
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I like Clint Eastwood as an actor and director as much as the next guy, but the hype bubble that surrounds him seems to be a bit much. Over the past few years, it seems that whenever he comes out with a movie – especially one in the last three months of the year – there’s so much Oscar buzz surrounding it that the film simply cannot live up to the hype generated from the advance press.
Even though the hype for “Changeling” was a bit slow on the uptake, it’s picked up speed. I’ve already heard people say it’s Eastwood’s greatest film, even better than “Million Dollar Baby” (which I thought was decent but not deserving of the Best Picture Oscar).
“Changeling” is based on a true story of a missing child in Los Angeles in the late 1920s. Walter Collins disappeared while his single mother was at work. She seeks help, and after a five-month investigation, the police return a boy to her. The only problem is that Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) insists the child is not her son.
Christine tries to convince the LAPD that this was a mistake, but they ridicule her, discredit her and even have her thrown into a psychopathic ward in the hospital. Meanwhile, a single detective from the police turn up some leads in a grisly multiple murder case.
“Changeling” isn’t just Eastwood’s latest grasp at Oscar gold, but it’s also that of Angelina Jolie. After her would-be Oscar contender from last year, “A Mighty Heart,” left the cinemas with a whimper, she picked a more mainstream project to seek out a second statuette…
…and this is the core problem with this film.
While “Changeling” is a powerful film with many solid performances, it’s obvious attempt to win awards gets in the way of telling a good story. There are so many Oscar clip moments in which Jolie’s character breaks down and cries, stands stalwart in the face of adversity or just screams and throws plates at the walls. As a parent, I understand the grief that she would be going through, but it seems like a desperate actor rather than a desperate character.
At this time each year, we’re faced with a slate of award movies, and “Changeling” trips on two pet peeves of mine in regard to award films. First, it’s too much of a showcase on one actor. Like last year’s “The Brave One” which seemed to be the director’s personal demonstration that Jodie Foster can, in fact, act, “Changeling” heaps too much attention on Jolie and doesn’t allow the greater story of LAPD corruption and a horrible murder mystery come to the forefront.
This leads to the film’s other problem facing many award films: it’s running time. Clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes, “Changeling” could have easily been a half hour shorter if some of the yelling scenes had been scrapped.
Finally, the other fly in the otherwise well-made ointment is Jeffrey Donovan of “Burn Notice” fame as the obnoxious and overbearing detective who goes to war with Christine Collins. I like Donovan, but he channels a bad impression of Edward G. Robinson in this film for no good reason. It’s like he’s trying to act outside of his ability, and it shows.
Difficult to watch at times due to its grisly subject matter, “Changeling” is a decent film, and competently made, but it’s not Eastwood’s best.