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changeling, eastwood, jolie, malkovich, missing child, movie

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Old 1st Jun 2010, 13:04   #1
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Default Changeling

I think there is mention of this on the Gran Torino thread, as it was also directed by Clint Eastwood, but I couldn't find a separate thread for it and I finally got round to seeing it at the weekend, and thought it might be worthy of a brief assessment.

The action begins in 1928. Angelina Jolie plays Christine Collins, a working single mother reliant on the goodwill of her employer and on her neighbours, but mostly on the self-reliance of her 10-year-old son Walter who occasionally finds himself a latchkey kid.

There's an understated exposition of the matter-of-factly affectionate relationship between mother and son, and then one day Christine comes home and Walter is missing. She's told she can't officially report him missing for 24 hours, because "9 times out of 10, the kid comes home." Walter doesn't come home.

In the meantime we are introduced to the Revd. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) who has an on-going crusade against corruption in the LA police department, and sees Christine's case at first as a neglect of their duty of care, and later, as developments unfold, as clear malfeasance on their part.

This unfolding of events includes the LAPD's insistence that Christine accept a boy, who is 3 inches shorter than Walter was 5 months previously, as her son; and their having her committed to a mental institution when she is insistent that the boy is an imposter and that they must continue looking for her son.

Jolie is impressively understated for much of her performance, though there are touches now and again that made me wonder if she had one eye on the awards ceremony. Not being a particular Jolie fan, I wasn't expecting much from her performance, but I found it reasonably convincing, and you could argue that the understatement makes the rare explosions of emotion more effective.

Malkovich's character at first seemed a little bit cartoony to my eyes, and his first appearance a slightly obvious way of introducing the theme of a corrupt police department, but later on when I'd become more engaged with Jolie's character, I felt a sort of relief that she had him as an ally; so because I wanted to believe in him, I then found him more believable.

There were many moments when I consciously had to remind myself that the film depicts real events, because the treatment of Christine Collins, after she has obtained signed statements from her son's doctor, dentist and teacher that the new boy is not her son, does somewhat beggar belief.

The film goes to some pretty dark places before it reaches its conclusion. Some real horrors are presented, not all that graphically perhaps, but there are several scenes from which I wanted to avert my eyes. It draws inevitable comparisons with Mystic River - I found Changeling more affecting and overall enjoyed it better than the other.
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Old 1st Jun 2010, 18:09   #2
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Default Re: Changeling

I'm among the minority that really loved Changeling. From what I can tell, it accurately depicts the true story -- seriously, read up on it; you'll be stunned -- and does so with a great deal of suspense and strong drama. I thought Jolie was terrific. The way she behaved with the "changeling" was very strong and real, I thought: she knows the boy is lying, she is in a never-ending state of stress and panic, but against all odds she's now responsible for him, and has to care for him. A unique situation for an actor to have to play, and I thought she nailed it.
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Old 2nd Jun 2010, 3:17   #3
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Default Re: Changeling

Really liked Changeling. It's a powerful and very disturbing film (the fact that it's based on true events makes the film even scarier). Jolie's performance is very good and she was a deserving Oscar nominee, but I was surprised at the lack of recognition for Jason Butler Harner during the "awards season". The period recreation was amazing (L.A., the chicken ranch) and the roadside café "Bummy's" was a fond tribute to legendary production designer Henry Bumstead, Eastwood's longtime collaborator.
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Old 2nd Jun 2010, 9:36   #4
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Default Re: Changeling

Originally Posted by Crake View Post
I was surprised at the lack of recognition for Jason Butler Harner during the "awards season".
Indeed, he does a great job with what must have been a very tricky character to play. I suspect the character has less screen time than one might think, because the scenes he is in have a huge impact. His performance contributes a great deal to the fact that those scenes are some of the hardest to watch in the film.

bill, I did read the Wikipedia entry for the film and was really impressed with the faithfulness of the screenwriter to the story, down to having his characters speak words that they actually said in press statements.

Agree too that it looks great. The way some of the scenes are lit, and the generally muted colour palette is just beautiful.
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Old 2nd Jun 2010, 10:31   #5
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Default Re: Changeling

SO and I saw this a while back on DVD and were pleasantly surprised. Can't remember a great deal about it as it really was a while back but I do remember being impressed by Jolie - I think I'd relatively recently flicked through bits of Tomb Raider so was glad to see her actually acting!
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