Changeling

by Alan Rapp on October 31, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Changeling
  • IMDB: link

“Miss Collins, if that’s your son I’ll eat my yardstick.”

Based on a true story the film, set in Los Angeles of the 1920’s, tells the tale of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) and her missing son.

When the police reunite her with who they believe to be her son Collins quickly finds plenty of evidence to support her own feelings that this boy is not Walter.  Attempts to get the police to acknowledge their mistakes fall on deaf ears and eventually Collins is thrown into an asylum for her “irrational” behavior.  Cue the inevitable electro-shock scene.

Director Clint Eastwood gives us a terrific looking picture filled with crazy and bizarre events.  However the film’s mood is never quite right and many of the disturbing events, such as the inane explanations in the change of Walter by the officer in charge (Jeffrey Donovan) and a doctor (Peter Gerety), come off silly rather than menacing.

The film is broken into different sections which don’t necessarily cut well together.  The first feels like a lame Twilight Zone episode, then there’s the story about the corruption of the Los Angeles Police Department, Collins stay in the madhouse, a courtroom drama, and the darker horror elements which take place in a farm in the middle of nowhere.  In this story about a missing child the child whose missing is lost for long periods of time due to all the other storylines in play and giving the film an unfocused feel.

At more than two-hours the movie is also too long and filled with extra scenes, five and ten years later.  The presence of these epilogues is to show Collins’ over the years; the effect is to create in the viewer a growing desperation that the film will never end.

There are also a few too many applause moments for me, especially in the film’s third act, scenes designed solely for the audience to cheer.  These types of scenes work well in sports movies, but in a drama, if not handled carefully, they come off cheesy.  And overall the film seems to be playing up to an Oscar audience rather then to simply telling its story, which should, though isn’t, compelling enough on its own.

This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the film.  Although story is a problem the movie is filled with good performances from Jason Bulter Harner, Amy Ryan, Jolie herself, and John Malkovich as a preacher with a blood feud against the LAPD who helps in Collins’ struggle.  And Eastwood provides some of his trademark movie magic moments over the course of the film, though not quite enough to overcome its flaws.

The look and style of the film, along with the acting, is quite good, but the unfocused storytelling and unintentional humor of the film make it a story which is almost impossible to take seriously.  If I had been able to buy into the highly unusual tale I’m sure my reaction would have been more positive, and there will be those who might not find the situations, as they are presented, as laughable as I did, but in the end Changeling feels like a miscalculation on Eastwood’s part and a bit of a head-scratcher as to what movie he actually wanted to tell.

Previous post:

Next post: