Maybe this should be a sign to you, Angie, that it’s time to stop adopting so many damn kids!
Christine Collins’ (Angelina Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned. But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for answers, only to be confronted by a truth that will change her forever.
That plot-synopsis up there that this movie is based on, apparently is all true and surprisingly happened during the 20’s/30’s. But what I find so funny about that idea, is that the movie writes it as “A True Story”, rather than playing it safe and going with “based on a true story”, or “inspired by true events”. You can get away with so much more if you with the two former-options, but nooooo, Clint Eastwood is taking a stand and believes in what he sees. Sadly, it is Clint Eastwood were talking about here, and nothing is as realistic or as simple as it may look on paper.
The problem that Eastwood runs into with most of his films (this one especially), is that he never seems to really focus on one aspect of the whole story. Instead, the guy goes for everything that’s involved and feels the need to load his film up with exposition, random details, unheard of hints, and unnecessary subplots, just in hope that it will spice things up and keep the audiences attention up on-screen. This just becomes a total jumble of randomness that could have really worked, had it been taken-down a notch by about 3 or 4 story-lines. That’s why when he does dial it down, it works perfectly and helps the story guide a simpler-path than it had before. However, the times when he doesn’t and just feels the need to add and add some more layers to a story that’s already as simple as it can be, then it can be a bit bothersome and that’s the problem with this movie here. Too much, too little needed.
However, it isn’t always like this. For the first 30 minutes or so, the movie focuses on Collins as she looks for her son, finds him, realizes he’s a fake, and then decides to take matters into her own hands and bother the hell out of everybody involved with the investigation. Right here in the beginning is actually compelling and kept me interested into where I could see it going, and especially when you realize that the way all of these cops are in this movie, are pretty much they were in real-life. It’s a shame that it’s a true-story but hey, I guess it had to happen. Now, after Collins runs into a big problem with the police department, then things go south for her real quick and ultimately, is where things go south for the movie as well. Instead of sticking to Collins’ story, we get a story about the corruption of the L.A. police department that ran rampant during the 20’s/30’s, then we get a story that’s about this serial killer that seems reasonable but also takes away from Collins’ own story, a story about the psychiatric ward and how all women who ‘effed with the cops got shipped off to there, and then another story about how Collins needs to move on. All of these stories seem like they serve a purpose to the big idea at-hand here, but still never mesh well together and only keep us further and further away from the actual story we started off with: Collins finding her son.
All of this piling-up of ideas and story-lines just creates a very long, drawn-out piece of work that never, ever needed to be 2 hours and 24-minutes long. I mean, I guess Eastwood didn’t want to leave out any details, but Christ man! At least give me the Spark Note version of everything that’s happening, rather than the College Textbook! I can’t rag on Clint’s case too much because the guy does have some nice-moments here and some important things to say, but he needed to buckle-down on that time-limit. Without this long-ass time-limit, I may not have been as bothered as I truly was.
However, where the story seems to fly-around wherever it sees fit, the one person keeping it all glued together is Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins. When Jolie isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster, she’s actually out there giving some understated, grounded performances that may shock some people considering she hasn’t really been known for doing that as of late. Jolie does an awesome job as Christine because she allows that sympathy and love we feel for her, shine through every-frame of the movie and you can really feel the utter sadness and depression coming from this problem in her life. Obviously losing a kid is no happy-thang, but instead of making it a non-stop problem that gets old, real quick, Jolie keeps us watching and having us wait to see more layers of her come pouring right out. It’s great to see Jolie like this and I can only hope that she continues to do more of it. You know, when she isn’t off with her hubby Brad, taking care of 7 kids, or shooting at people in her latest, action blockbuster
Her main co-star, John Malkovich, is practically given a top-billing next to her name but yet, still isn’t in it as much as you would expect from a big-name like his. Malkovich plays Reverend Gustav Brigleb, one of the guys who first sticks up for Christine, and plays him very well but not as spirited or as energetic as we’ve seen this guy act before. It’s a nice performance, no doubt about that, but a bit of a disappointment considering we all know what he can bring to a movie. Maybe more time could have been given to him, his character, his emotions, and his motivations for helping-out Christine, rather than the 500 other stories Clint had on his plate.
The other people in this cast try their hardest, but all sort of fall by the waste-side once you see how they are all portrayed, especially the men of the police unit. The problem with how Eastwood portrays these police officers/detectives is as if they have no remorse, no souls, or no idea of being a good person at all. It seems as if they are all concerned with saving their own butts and don’t want to hear a single word about what it is that they’re doing, is wrong. Each and every one was portrayed as the stereotypical villain we usually see in one-sided movies like these. It’s not even that they’re just bad-guys either, they’re laughably bad. The dialogue for them is so obvious, so predictable, and so cliche, that you have to wonder just how the hell they let idiots like these actually have the authority to carry a gun and a badge. The one I remember the most was probably Jeffrey Donovan as the main police captain, who has a dated and forced accent that comes off as if he has a stick up his ass, or just can’t read his lines. Either way, the guy sucks and I don’t know how the hell he has a hit TV show on USA. Don’t even know what it’s called, but it’s been on there forever and with him as the lead, I don’t know.
Consensus: Though Changeling features a strong, central performance from Jolie and a sometimes-interesting “true story”, Clint Eastwood’s direction still gets in the way with his constant use of constantly adding on layers to a story, losing his central focus, and never really being able to make it all come together for an eventful and memorable ending. It just flops like a fish, and leaves your mind as soon as soon as the credits begin to roll.
6 / 10 = Rental!!
I’m sad to see you weren’t as taken with this film as I was. I’m in love with it. I’m glad though that you recognized Jolie’s strong performance. And I was giggling all throughout your review. Great job.
She’s a good actress and does exceptionally-well here, but everything else bogs her down. Thanks Ted!
I think this one of Eastwood’s better films. OK, the ending was overdrawn yet there was still a lot in the film that kept engaged such as Jolie and Malkovich. I loved that line where Jolie tells the doctor… “fuck you and the horse you rode in”.
Jolie was awesome and I loved what they did with her character. Just wish there was more to the gal and her story then everything be all crazy and whatnot.
I watched this film because one of my mates forced me to because he kept going on about how good it was. And despite not being a fan of Ms. Jolie I have to say I was actually impressed by her in this film and I liked it.
It’s an okay film, but she’s what really makes it worth the while I gotta say.
A powerful film by Clint. He is one of the few filmmakers who makes a fitting retelling of a real story on screen. Loved your analysis too. Here’s my review, do share your thoughts
Thanks! Will do!
I am a massive Angelina Jolie fan so I am not gonna say anything bad about this film. lol Good review!
Aahah she is great here and definitely the best thing about it. Thanks Erik!
OK, I think I’m finally going to cave and give this one a shot.
“The problem that Eastwood runs into with most of his films (this one especially), is that he never seems to really focus on one aspect of the whole story. Instead, the guy goes for everything that’s involved and feels the need to load his film up with exposition, random details, unheard of hints, and unnecessary subplots, just in hope that it will spice things up and keep the audiences attention up on-screen.”
What a load of utter, UTTER drivel. You need to develop an attention span and some understanding of the art of storytelling. Until then I do’t think anyone’s going to take you seriously.