What with Thanksgiving and all it's been a couple weeks since I went out and watched a movie, not that anyone really noticed. Anyway, this week I went to see Clint Eastwood's "Changeling" before it exits the big theaters.
This movie is based on an amazing (or baffling) true story in Los Angeles. On March 10, 1928 Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) comes home from her job at the telephone company (where she gets to wear roller skates!) to find her son Walter missing. Five months later a boy turns up in DeKalb, Illinois claiming to be Walter and is brought back to Los Angeles by a triumphant LAPD in desperate need of some good press.
There's only one problem: it's not Walter!
Christine knows this right off, but reluctantly agrees to take the child home just in case she is mistaken. But soon she discovers the boy is three inches shorter than her last measurement of Walter and circumcized, where Walter was not. She goes to the LAPD but the corrupt Captain Jones stonewalls her at every turn by bringing in his own "expert" and finally questioning her sanity, which leads to Christine being committed. But over time the truth about Walter (most of it) comes out to reveal the frightening corruptness and incompetence of the LAPD.
It is frightening to think that a police captain could have you thrown into the loony bin without so much as a warrant just because you're asking too many questions. Once in the loony bin, how can you really prove your sanity when the doctors are just as corrupt as the police?
Ultimately, "Changeling" is a story about a mother who refuses to give in to corruption and terror out of love for her son--her real son. I wouldn't be surprisd if Jolie gets some Oscar buzz for her performance, though a lot of it seemed to be alternately crying and yelling. At the core, between all that crying and yelling, there is a cold resolve to make sure justice is done.
Eastwood's direction and music score are good, though there was never a point where I didn't know I was watching a movie. Some of the dramatic touches like Christine being rescued a moment before being electroshocked seemed too convenient to have happened in real life, but such is the case in all "based on a true story" movies. And really, who would have thought the guy who created "Babylon 5" could write a script about historical events in 1928 Los Angeles?
Overall, I'd say this is a good movie, though not great in my mind. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets a few Oscar nods because at this point I haven't seen anything more likely to win, although most of the small movies that might be nominated haven't made stops at the multiplex yet.
BTW, do you suppose it was a coincidence that the previews before this were Eastwood's "Gran Torino" and Brad Pitt's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"?
My score: 3/4 stars