28 October 2008 | jdesando
An interesting story told well.
Christine Collins: "The boy they brought back is not my son."
ClintEastwood s knows a good story, and he knows how to tell it on film. Not everything he does is as powerful as his depiction of a dynamic female boxer in Million Dollar Baby, for which Hilary Swank won a best actress Oscar among four for the film. In Changeling he presents another strong woman, Christine Collins, played by the notable Angelina Jolie. Because she is directed to weep at almost every turn and regularly underplay her grit, Jolie won't win accolades, nor will Eastwood rack up the nominations as he frequently does in Oscar season. But his adaptation of the historic Wineville Chicken Murders chills with his perceptions about the capriciousness of crime and the determination of those who choose to fight it.
In a Prohibition-era 1928, Collins gets word that the Los Angeles Police Department is returning her kidnapped eight-year old son. When she sees him at the station, a finely directed sequence showing the forces of motherhood and politics clash, she knows it is not her child. LAPD, needing the good publicity, forces her to take the boy overnight with the logic that she is merely in shock. The rest of this overly long thriller carefully traces the discoveries leading to resolutions and disappointments. Along the way, police corruption is exposed, mental institution incarceration of women is laid bare, and grisly serial murdering is slowly detailed.
Yet in this discursive narrative, Eastwood indulges himself beyond Jolie's annoying crying by gratuitously laboring over the details of an execution. The stark San Quentin setting is ghastly and the villain worthy except for the film's obvious criticism of false mental institution lockup, ironic here because this murderer is clearly deranged enough to be determined unfit for trial.
As in every Eastwood production, the values are first-rate, in this case period costuming and vehicles (those Model T's and trolley cars are beautiful). As in Mystic River, Eastwood knows how to splice family and community together in the struggle against organized crime, from street violence to public service malpractice. The activist preacher Reverend Briegleb (John Malkovich) helps bring the worlds together in his radio broadcasts, Malkovich for once playing good well. Eastwood continues to be the director of choice for depicting crimes and heartaches that strike the common citizen at will.
We all should be as productive in our later years. May he extend well beyond his golf-playing days and into our future.