A new year and back to the familiar tone of January and February films in the run up to Oscar season. I.e., long and with lots of “acting”. Changeling was out last year of course, but because all films seem to be half a day long right now, this one won the viewing war by being on at the most convenient time. Yes, I am THAT professional.
So, Mr Eastwood is back behind the camera to direct another leading lady to potential Oscar stardom, replacing Swank with Jolie and boxing for, err, motherhood. He takes the true story of a mother’s fight against the utterly corrupt LAPD back in the 20s, who were so keen to hide their mistakes that they refused to believe they had returned the wrong missing son, despite his mother’s insistence, and instead had her shut away in a mental hospital. Bloody hell! Their attitudes and actions are flabbergasting, prompting amazed laughter in places, which given the subject matter (missing, and most likely, deceased child) is probably a bit in bad taste. Sorry.
Angelina wallops in her performance, showing the distress, confusion and sheer grief that her real-life counter part must have felt. It is, however, a little off-putting that she resembles Skeleton Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas, her willowy frame increasing her vulnerability but unusually large lips and eyes making her a bit frightening too. Much of the time she screams “I want my son”, or “he’s not my son”, and the rest she stares wide-eyed, lips slightly parted in a forlorn pout and a bit of acting-snot glistening in her nostrils. But hell, she does a stirling job and must surely get a nomination at the very least.
The first couple of hours of this film were surprisingly very good (I’m not a massive fan of Eastwood). Gripping, emotional, shocking and nicely paced, the film builds to an almost devastating finale, reigning in the CF points… and then it carries on. For another 40 minutes. The points that could have been summed up in a montage or even those little bits of blurb at the end are shown in full, unnecessary detail, dampening the power of the film and making you wonder when on earth the story will finish. It’s such a shame, because the film seems to naturally build up brilliantly, only to level off and peter out. That’s not to say it doesn’t peter out with a bit of a tear in the eye, but it means a film that could have been “great” becomes a film that is “pretty good”.
Still, for Jolie’s presence and the power of a shocking and compelling true story, Changeling is a fine film and a good way to start the year. It lost points for a lack of control towards the end, and as such comes in at a neat CF1. OK Oscar fodder – what else you got?