Okay, so this movie is no longer in the theater and not yet on DVD but I thought I would start off my blog with the Changeling review. I wrote this when the movie first came out. I'm pretty disappointed that it didn't get nominated for a Golden Globe for best picture. Have you seen it? What did you think? And if you haven't seen it, do you you want to? Dying to know.
The lengths that a mother will go through for her child have been told in story form as far back as the Moses story in the Bible. So I was initially stunned when I wasn’t bored out of my wits watching Clint Eastwood’s Changeling. From viewing trailers about the long awaited Eastwood flick, it seems as if the story is about a mother who lost her son and the police return to her the wrong boy-- that actually only takes up about one-fourth of the movie. The movie is hardly about the lost son at all but more about Christine Collin’s (played by Angelina Jolie) struggle with the L.A. police department that eventually inspires most of the city. It is based on the true story of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders.
In 1928, single mom, Collins comes home from her job as a telephone operator supervisor to find her son missing. After phoning the police, she finds out that she cannot file a missing person’s report until her son, Walter, has been missing for 24-hours. Five months go by without any sign of Walter when Collins receives a call that they found her son. That’s not her son. The corrupt LAPD with JJ Jones as Captain (played by Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan) convinces Collins to take the mystery boy home because she simply is in shock. Jones later has Collins committed into a mental institution where she witnesses the un-justice that occurs at the hands of the over-powered LAPD. With the help of Reverend Gustav Briegleb (played by John Malkovich), Collins confronts the city authorities and corruption in the LAPD to find out the truth about her son.
After doing research on this movie, it is eerie to see how true the events are, down to the picture that is taken at the train station of “Walter’s” homecoming. After growing-up on Lifetime movies, it’s good to watch a movie that is actually close to being true. Changeling shows the fact that life goes on, even when your child is gone. Eastwood finds time in the depressing tale to actually make the audience cheer and laugh. Donovan’s Captain JJ Jones makes the audience hate him and root for Collins while being able to deny anything that Jolie throws at him, even at unbelievable times. When Jolie shines at the police station, defying Jones, saying that it was impossible that a bum made her son 3-inches shorter, it seems unbelievable that Jones would say that it was medically possible and even proven. It was nice seeing Jolie in something where she’s actually wearing clothes (except once in the institution) and not using magic bullets to kill people. Jolie made me believe in the character and within ten minutes I didn’t even remember I was watching Lara Croft. The only problem I had with Jolie’s portrayal of Collins was that she cried, a lot. Hands down the best movie Jolie has ever done. But really, what is there to compete with? And rumor is, Eastwood practically had to beg her to do the piece.
The main problem I had with Changeling was the fact that it seemed really long. Although it is only 141 minutes, it seems a lot longer. There was at least three times when I thought it was over. Eastwood should have cut it down by like twenty minutes. Some of the lead up to the Chicken Coop case could have been cut because when those scenes were on the screen, I was too confused about the movie. I was so busy worrying if I knew who these characters were to even pay attention. I did like the subtle, blink-and-you-miss-it, lead in with Detective Lester Ybarra (played by Michael Kelly). I was disappointed with the lack of screen time Amy Ryan had as the institution prostitute that befriends Jolie in her short time there. Ryan who has played very different roles in The Wire, The Office, and Gone Baby, Gone deserves way more credit in Hollywood than she currently has. Another problem is that the ending gives off two different feelings. Eastwood has said that he wanted to keep the ending open, which he does, but then there are summaries of what happened to certain characters. Completely unnecessary. The movie does a pretty good job of making these apparent and they could be axed all together.
Overall, Eastwood has made another great movie. Like Million Dollar Baby, another movie about a strong woman that took Hilary Swank’s career to the next level, hopefully Changeling will do the same for Jolie. Changeling is charming, funny, suspenseful, and a great look at a piece of history. A mother’s story that changes the way things work and is actually entertaining.