Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Damn those TV ads again
By Edward Copeland
I resisted Changeling as long as I could, namely because of the pervasive TV ads when it opened that focused on Angelina Jolie wailing, "HE'S NOT MY SON!" After listening to her shrieking last year in A Mighty Heart, the thought of more screeching wasn't very palatable. So imagine my surprise when I sat down to the movie and found that both it and Jolie were good.
Changeling may be one of Clint Eastwood's best directing efforts except that it's a bit too long. It joins the growing list of period pieces, this time based on a true story, that makes the case that the Los Angeles Police Department always had corruption in its DNA.
Jolie stars as Christine Collins, a single mom whose 9-year-old son disappears. The police find an abandoned boy in Illinois and try to pass him off as Collins' son. When she immediately cries foul, instead of continuing to search and admit their error, the police begin a campaign to make it sound as if Christine is the crazy one.
Fortunately, a popular radio preacher (John Malkovich) is on her side, but not before the police have locked her away in a mental hospital, ready to give her shock treatments.
Jolie is surprisingly effective and this is certainly the best performance I've seen her give since way back in Girl, Interrupted. The Oscar nomination she received wasn't the outrage I thought it might be before I saw the film and the technical nominations it got (art direction, cinematography) were definitely earned and it was robbed of a nomination for Deborah Hopper's costumes and probably a win. (Come on, The Duchess was great, but enough with the corsets. When is the last time we saw great working class 1920s duds depicted this well?)
Except for being about 20 minutes too long, Changeling is a riveting, harrowing true story that yet again explains why I've always had the sense of palpable evil when I set foot in L.A.