Changeling Directed by: Clint Eastwood Cast: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Jason Butler Harner Time: 2 hrs 20 mins Rating: R
Plot: In the late 1920's, a mother (Jolie) battles uphill against a manipulative Los Angeles police department when the missing son returned to her is not actually her child.
Who’s It For? Anyone familiar with recent Eastwood films like Mystic River or Letters From Iwo Jima should be aware of Changeling's oncoming sentimentality and rewarding quality. But for some, the emotional intensity of Changeling might be similar to be whipped by a wet towel that has been soaked in tears.
Expectations: Clint Eastwood. The films he has directed in the past have been as powerful as the Smith & Wesson Model 29 that he used to fire off during his Dirty Harry days.
Actors: Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins: Eastwood plays with Jolie's newfound motherhood heart-strings to craft a personal performance that aims to affect any parent in the audience. At times, his squeezing of the actress for her instant flood of tears can be excessive, but nonetheless his film's somberness helps remind everyone that Angelina Jolie's presence extends beyond gossip magazines. Score: 7
John Malkovich as Rev. Gustav Briegleb: Malkovich, usually an acting force of the highest Shakespearean proportions, has a strange lack of presence. Utilizing such a commanding actor, one would think Eastwood would credit this character as more than just the caretaker of Christine and the organizer behind her movement. Regardless, Malkovich's theatrical delivery is still intact, necessary or not. Score: 5
Jeffrey Donovan as Capt. J.J. Jones: As malevolent as Donovan tries to play his character, the snarl he forces into his voices always seems a bit exaggerated. Score: 5
Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott: To reveal the identity of this character would be a great disservice to the impact of Changeling. Harner's performance is by no means a large contribution to the kind of character he plays, but is a success in adding unwelcome and extra weight to the film's emotional heaviness. Score: 6
Talking: Changeling is a great script, but can't avoid its tendency for clunky dialogue such as "It would be my honor to defend your honor," or in a moment of physical intensity, "stop it -- or I'll push your face into the floor." The film also has the cheesiest "off-screen howl of pain while the camera shows a gloomy window of a mental ward" segment I've seen in years. Score: 6
Sights & Sounds: Clint Eastwood's self-composed scores always enhance the effective beauty portrayed in each of his films. Always simple in both instrumentation and melodic motif, their presence is gentle but effectual of the film's tone. With Changeling, the score is adding to the film's atmosphere, but isn't able to stand on its own. A light guitar and trumpet just aren't given the proper sheet music - and from a musician's standpoint, Eastwood's choice of notes in his aforementioned melodic motif are simply odd, beyond the point of unique. Score: 5
There are a lot of decent stories, both true and fictional, wandering around Hollywood. Thankfully, Clint Eastwood is one of their orphanages. Changeling is a film like Flags Of Our Fathers that has the actor-director adding his own brand of sentiment to an already emotionally challenging story. This particular tale, which doubles as the story of a destroyed woman and the corrupt police force slowly ruining her life, is well-told and balanced. It juggles its weighty subjects (mum is the word) while never losing grasp of its 140 minute running time. Rationally, it's too early to think "Oscar," but it's never too late to experience skilled filmmaking.
Final Score: 7/10