DIRECTED BY Clint Eastwood
STARS Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich
Like Mystic River and Flags of Our Fathers, Changeling is good, not great, Clint Eastwood, although as far as emotional resonance is concerned, the latest from the consummate director certainly reverberates more strongly than either of those other features.
Based on a true story and brought to the screen via an ambitious screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski, Changeling stars Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins, a single mom whose only son (Gattlin Griffith) goes missing one fateful afternoon in 1928. The Los Angeles Police Department, mired at the time in corruption, spots an opportunity to do something right and eventually reunites the mother with her boy. The only problem is that they bring back the wrong child, but rather than risk further embarrassment for the department, a zealous captain (Jeffrey Donovan) decides to drown out Christine's protests by any means necessary, including labeling her as an unfit mother in the press and going so far as to have her locked up in a mental institution.
Eastwood's stately picture slowly extends its reach, as various other plot elements circle the central story of a parent's unbreakable bond with her offspring; while some suffer in the mix (John Malkovich, as a crusading reverend fighting for Christine's rights, could have benefited from more scenes), the overall result is a movie that will disappoint only those who require tidy endings wrapped up in pretty bows. Along the same lines, those who find fault with the brutish depiction of Christine's tormenters fail to grasp the patriarchy of the period (the story takes place a mere eight years after American women were given the right to vote); Jolie, on the other hand, understands this angle and aptly plays Christine as a woman whose frustrations with the system often match her fear for the safety of her child.