Thursday, March 12, 2009


First of all, I couldn't help but snicker at the description on the back of the Netflix envelope referring to "Ace director, Clint Eastwood." Who wrote that? An old-timey journalist from 1938? Ace director! He's the cat's pajamas!

Don't get me wrong, if anyone deserves the Ace title, it's Eastwood. The man delivers a good film and Changeling is no exception. Although, if anything in this film, his directing is so spartan and unembellished that you won't even notice it. I guess I'm saying that even a tool like Bruckheimer probably couldn't have screwed up this material: the story is that good. We loved watching it.

Changeling follows the true story of 1920's Los Angeles mom, Christine Collins, as she battles police corruption to find her missing son, Walter. The LAPD, facing horrible public image problems, brings Christine's son back to her, but she's convinced it's not her son. When Collins tries to make public the fact that the LAPD returned the wrong kid, she quickly finds herself staying at a mental institution on police orders.

A legal team headed up by anti-LAPD preacher, played by John Malkovich (who is just so good at being preachy, let's be honest) and a shark of an attorney come to the rescue of Collins and attempt to mount a strike at the LAPD. But what makes the movie really compelling is the co-story of the alleged murderer, Gordon Northcott, accused of murdering 20 boys, Walter Collins among them. Northcott's scenes are riveting and his madness is chilling.

Collins is played by Angelina Jolie. Now, I will be the first to admit that she's a good actress and she handled the role with skill. But I couldn't help but feel like she's just too physically striking to make this role believable. Draped in face-framing clothes and brilliantly rich make-up, she looked stunning...too stunning. The camera loves her face but it's so distinct that it distracts you from the character.

At no point was I unaware that I was watching Angelina Jolie, not Christine Collins. I could only imagine how powerful the role would have been in less facially-captivating hands (that is a nice way of saying "not so pretty"). Forgive me, but I'm thinking Frances McDormand here.

My favorite character in the film was Collins' lawyer. For the life of me, I can't figure out who the actor is (why have you forsaken me, IMDB?) but I've seen him in other roles and he's superb in this film. He'll make you want to love your lawyer. I'll refer to him henceforth as "Ace Actor Portraying a Lawyer."

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