Changeling

Changeling (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Clint Eastwood
viewed: 06/01/09

Director Clint Eastwood’s film Changeling is an adept and effective film about a fascinating, horrifying story.  Adapted from facts about a nototious series of murders from 1928 known as the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders and the true life account of Christine Collins, a single mother whose son disappears, only to be “brought back” by the insanely corrupt Los Angeles Police Department several months later.  However, the boy that the LAPD brought back was an imposter, a 10-year old charlatan.  Collins, played by Angelina Jolie in the film, fights the system and is sent to a menal institution by the police chief.  It’s an outrageous, outraging story.  Actually very sad and horrid but fascinating as well.

I’d read an interesting article in The New Yorker around the time the film was released about another story of a disappeared child and a man who specialized in imposture.  The story was linked loosely to the story that Changeling covers, but is a contemporary story and one that is much more psychological and strange (read it here).  I predict that this too will be a movie in the near future.  It’s too fascinating itself for no one to have optioned the story for production.

Changeling though is less psychological, more a film about crime, corruption, misogyny, and a courtroom drama.  Jolie is lovely in her period clothes, and I was struck more than once by the fact that the film’s entire aesthetic could have been gleaned from the paintings of Edward Hopper.  Jolie looks like she stepped right out of one, pale, muted colors, yet also somehow lurid and rich.

The film is effective and interesting, certainly.  Eastwood handles the material sturdily and manages to evoke the sensibilities that he looks for.  Eastwood, though, for all his praise in media, is not an auteur, but at best an effective director who can make a movie, make it well, but doesn’t really elevate the material.  Okay, I’m saying this but how many of his films have I seen?  Not a lot.  So sue me.

For me, this film was interesting, largely due to the horrible story and reality beneath it, something that I’m surprised James Ellroy didn’t manage to dive into himself, full as it is of the gruesome underbelly of Los Angeles and the brutal murders of young boys that uncovered the sickening corruption in the LAPD.  Right up his alley.  Maybe not enough sex.  Good film.  Not great film,  but good film.

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