Quick Hit: A sad movie that is based on a true story that is well-acted and beautiful, but leaves you strangely empty at the end.
Changeling is a movie that takes place in 1928 and stars Angelina Jolie as a mother who has lost her son, Walter. It further develops into a civilians vs cops drama, where the LAPD is trying to pass off a different boy as her son in order to avoid embarrassment. They throw her into an insane asylum to keep her quiet where she is rescued dramatically by a preacher (played by John Malkovich), and then files a civil suit against the city.
Sound pretty dramatic? Surprising, it’s not as dramatic as you would think. Clint Eastwood is known for having sad movies (Million Dollar Baby, Gran Torino) and this is indeed that. But he shows a delicate hand when it comes to the scenes that could become overly dramatic, and I really enjoyed that. Another thing I really enjoyed was the deep neutral tone that the colors in the film kept -lots of browns and greys and off-whites that are randomly punctuated with a bright yellow taxi or road car, or other similar background item. It keeps the mood of the film set and also brings a time period shift that is welcome (when compared to the many historical inaccuracies – more on those later). Another thing it is in keeping with is the pace, which is slow - but somehow maintains your interest despite this.
confused as to what his accent should be in this movie, but is overall not bad. Angelina Jolie is pretty good, though you can’t help but see the roles she is used to playing struggling to break out. She is so subdued in this role that you keep expecting a major tonal shift to occur, where she goes after “The Man” or just bad guys in general. But (spoiler?), this doesn’t happen. The closest she comes to her normal badassery is near the end – and by then it is too late (and I mean... how many times can you say "Did you kill my son?" punctuated with the occasional "I hope you go to Hell".
The show is completely stolen form Ms. Jolie though, as Jason Butler Harner busts into the movie. From the second he hits the screen, you are simultaneously confused, amazed, angered, and a plethora of other emotions. This is because his mannerisms keep changing, he keeps shifting physically, and your brain can’t quite keep up with him.
Beauty and acting aside, the movie had quite a few historical inaccuracies. I’m not saying that movies have to be perfect – it’s just that some of them were little things that could have easily been fixed. For instance, in the diner scene, the man tells them that the total would be two dollars. Translated to today’s money, that would be twenty eight dollars! Those must be some sandwiches – no wonder the guy took off. Other things that irked me were references to the fridge (it would have been an icebox then), the inclusion of electroshock therapy (which was first used in 1937 - isn’t that whole scene a giant One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest knock-off??), and the fact that the trolley cars can magically float attached to nothing. Apparently, this isn’t set in the past, but the future.
Those problems aside, Eastwood crafted a good film, and the story and mystery that surround it are enough to carry the movie to a “B” rating from me.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"