23 January, 2009

"Changeling" Film Review

It’s no wonder why Changeling received great reviews when it premiered in the 61st Cannes Film Festival early last year in May.

Changeling is a period drama film directed and co-produced by Clint Eastwood in 2008. The film is written by J. Michael Straczynski, and stars Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Gattlin Griffith, Jason Butler Harner, and Amy Ryan.
(May Contain Spoilers)

The story of Changeling itself, which is based on true events, is truly compelling on its own. The actors’ performances only add another level of depth to the film. Angelina Jolie deserves every letter of praise she gets. She performed with endless grace and poise truly reminiscent of a lady in the 20’s era. Jolie managed to convey an innate strength and earnest tenacity to her character, even when she was nose to nose with a psychopathic killer, was thrown into an insane asylum, and was verbally manipulated by a man who was supposed to protect her. Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott was amazing. Normally, that type of bumbling clumsiness would get on my nerves, but Harner delivers an eerily pathetic plight to his psychotic character that makes you want to slap him in both fury and pity. John Malkovich, as usual, is enigmatic yet magnetic. Jeffrey Donovan as J.J. Jones, the police captain, is every bit the charming snake that we all love to hate, and hate even more because his clean cut prestige is completely wasted by his lack of a heart and soul.

One of the best scenes I loved in the Changeling film was in the first few minutes wherein we get to see the relationship between Angelina Jolie’s character Christine Collins, and her son Gattlin Griffith’s character, Walter. Christine and Walter exhibit a quietly intense dependence on each other. One of the little details that clearly show this love is when Christine and Walter were on the bus. The bus stops at Walter’s school, and as he leaves the bus to enter the school, Christine escorts him off the bus, affectionately ruffles his head, and returns to the bus again to continue her journey. It was completely illogical because she could have just said her goodbyes without having to get out of the bus, but it was also the obsessive fussing that clearly shows a mother’s instinctual love, the need to be as close to your child as long as possible even if it’s just a mere few steps. Another one of the best scenes I loved, of course, is the court scene wherein the Captain and Police Chief totally got what they deserved, I also loved the part where Christine confronted Gordon Northcott before the day of his execution, it was intense, disturbing, and goosebumps worthy.

The detailed arrangement of the whole set to emulate the 20’s ambiance and design was absolutely riveting, everything was so perfectly coifed and pressed to a believable 20’s era casual glamour. The music was also great, very in tuned with the emotion of the scene. Overall, Changeling delivers a heavy story with a heavy message, and it does so without making the audience faint with the heaviness.

Changeling is as much about a missing child and his mother’s desperate attempt to find him, as it is about the shameless corruption of people in power, and the constant demeaning of women. A film that wraps itself around all of these issues, and successfully tackles each one and does even more, deserves an extra kudos. And I’ll leave that extra one to the Oscars.

And remember folks, a mother’s love always wins.

Christine Collins: "He's not my son."
Capt. J.J. Jones: "Mrs. Collins..."
Christine Collins: "No, I don't know why he's saying that he is, but he's not Walter and there's been a mistake."
Capt. J.J. Jones: "I thought we agreed to give him time to adjust."
Christine Collins: "He's three inches shorter; I measured him on the chart."
Capt. J.J. Jones: "Well, maybe your measurements are off. Look, I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for all of this."
Christine Collins: "He's circumcised and Walter isn't."
Capt. J.J. Jones: "Mrs. Collins, your son was missing for five months, for at least part of that time in the company of an unidentified drifter. Who knows what such a disturbed individual might have done. He could have had him circumcised. He could have..."
Christine Collins: "...made him shorter?"

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