Monday, March 09, 2009

Changeling: Grade C

Changeling (2008)
Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Michael Kelly; Director Clint Eastwood.

The recreation of 1920’s Los Angeles is one of the best features of this movie, although it is not completely convincing. Everything is sparkling brand new, no sign of any wear or dirt on any car, street, trolley, train, household, or costume. That’s a common flaw in set designs. The sepia toned palette looks good though.

Jolie is a working class single mother whose 10 year old son is abducted (why or how, we never learn), while she is at work. The police find the boy, bring him home, but she claims he is not her son. The police insist however, and hold a self-congratulatory press conference. When the mother continues to protest, she is put away in a mental hospital. A local preacher (Malkovich) with an anti-police axe to grind takes up her cause. We never do learn what burr is under Malkovich’s saddle, nor do we ever find out why the police are so motivated to pursue the false child gambit. Nor do we understand the false child’s motivation for playing along. It seems like it would take all of about 20 minutes to sort out the subterfuge (i.e., with an independent doctor, not one sent over by the police).

Meanwhile, in an unrelated thread, a psychotic serial killer in Canada is abducting and killing dozens of young boys. How Jolie’s child ever found his way to that Canadian ranch is left untold. The bad guy is caught and eventually executed, and the hanging scene is detailed and good.

Jolie does a completely competent acting job despite fire-engine red lipstick that makes her look like she is wearing comic wax lips most of the time (the lip color is toned way back on the DVD cover). The story and dialog are melodramatic, with huge, over the top gestures, not real feelings. There is very little dramatic tension, and none of the characters is well-developed. The story is not much of a mystery or character study. While it documents practices in forensic psychiatry (involuntary commitment, etc.) the film isn’t a period documentary either. Maybe Clint didn’t know what it was, and that is the problem. The story is excruciatingly slow, especially in the beginning, perhaps an allusion to an earlier pace of life? But there is just not enough content in the movie to excuse its self-indulgent 2 hours and 20 minutes. It might have worked as a tear-jerker if there were situations that cause tears to be jerked. Child is abducted – it’s a terrible thing, but not enough by itself to get worked up about.

No comments:

Post a Comment