Changeling reviews

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Postby Mister Tee » Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:52 pm

I haven't seen the movie yet, thus have no opinion, but I am surprised to see the movie is doing fairly well -- it's set to outgross Flags, and Iwo Jima comfortably. Why would this be? It's hard to say it's Jolie, given how moviegoers stayed away in droves from the better-reviewed Might Heart.

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Postby flipp525 » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:43 pm

dws1982 wrote:
Jason Butler Harner, who plays Gordon Northcott, Wineville Chicken Serial Killer, an actor I am unfamiliar with, is one of the standouts.

He played Tom Wingfield in the 2004 Kennedy Center production of The Glass Menagerie opposite Sally Field, which is where I had seen him before.

I actually saw that production of The Glass Menagerie at the Kennedy Center back in '04 (in addition to Patricia Clarkson in Streetcar and Mary Stuart Masterson in Cat), so I feel pretty lame for not recognizing him. That was a luminous production of Williams' most personal play and Harner was fantastic in it. Field stole the show, though. An incredible performance.




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Postby The Original BJ » Sat Nov 08, 2008 6:16 pm

I was mostly disappointed in Changeling, the first of three lesser efforts from major filmmakers I saw in a row last week (the others being Happy-Go-Lucky and W....more on those later.)

I thought the film started off very well. Eastwood, as usual, does a fine job establishing the milieu of Christine's life, and the opening scenes are touching in their depiction of mother-son interaction, and gripping in the ways they suspensefully set up the tragedy to come.

But, like dws, I found the next section full of WAY too many scenes of "this is not my child"/"yes it is." The repetitive nature of these scenes recalls Flags of Our Fathers, another film plagued by the hammering home of the same ideas ad nauseum.

The script picks up a great deal with the investigation of the Wineville Chicken murders, a sequence which I found terrifically directed and horrifying in sheer content. But as the film went on, I became more and more disappointed with the script. I was never really surprised by anything that happened on a narrative level, and the film's thematic ideas about governmental corruption are never really explored beyond a couple superficial caricatures.

I have another problem, and it's my continued non-interest in Angelina Jolie. In all honesty, she's quite powerful from scene to scene, and I never had a problem with any of her individual moments (the way I did in say, the big dramatic outbreak in A Mighty Heart.) But for me her performance lacked a through-line, or at least one that went beyond the obvious. Her arc goes from mostly content-->distraught-->more distraught without really adding any layers that aren't present in the script. (What makes this, admittedly, an even larger problem is that her character doesn't have much of an arc for the actress to play to begin with.) She's got enough Oscar-clip scenes that a nomination is very possible (especially given the miss last year), but I'd be shocked if she made a strong run for trophy #2.

Despite all the film's flaws, it has one big thing going for it: it's surprisingly never boring, a rarity for a problematic 140 minute film. I think the horror of the subject matter (and the fact that it's an unbelievably true story) makes it compelling, even if the material isn't handled in the best manner possible.

I can't see too many Oscar nominations for this film. Jolie is a good possibility, though, given what seems like a competitive Best Actress slate, she could also miss. The period setting would suggest likely Art Direction and Costume bids, though neither are as flashy as those branches typically like to make them sure things. I'd be shocked if Changeling made a strong run for Picture/Director -- I've been a big fan of Eastwood's recent Oscar nominees, and I don't subscribe to the notion some do, that Eastwood gets nominations by default. But were he to score big for this, I might change my tune just a little bit.

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Postby dws1982 » Sat Nov 08, 2008 11:44 am

Jason Butler Harner, who plays Gordon Northcott, Wineville Chicken Serial Killer, an actor I am unfamiliar with, is one of the standouts.

He played Tom Wingfield in the 2004 Kennedy Center production of The Glass Menagerie opposite Sally Field, which is where I had seen him before. (As well as in guest spots on various TV shows.)

Saw it last weekend. I usually like to see Eastwood movies twice before coming to a final verdict. Initially, my thought is that it's very good--with some genuinely great elements--but not one of Eastwood's masterpieces.

A lot of the problem is in the screenplay for me. The story of Christine Collins and her struggle against the corrupt LAPD makes for an insular narrative with a few too many scenes of Jolie talking about how the child returned is not her son, and the LAPD bigwigs trying to tell her she's crazy. (Jolie is very good, though.) I think it would've been more interesting if it had focused on Detective Ybarra and his efforts to solve the crimes and deal with the problems in his own police force. Ybarra is a classic Eastwood character, and it's significant that Eastwood seems most engaged during those scenes showing Ybarra trying to sort through the lies and the deception and find the truth. His scenes show elements of a genuinely great film. (Eastwood also gets great performances from two young actors playing characters whom Det. Ybarra interviews.)

I'd say I need to see it again before coming to a final verdict.

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Postby flipp525 » Sat Nov 08, 2008 3:35 am

*SPOILERS*

Just got back from Changeling. Although there are some pacing problems (stronger editing might've tightened the third act), this film was very well-done and, honestly, quite disturbing (a very fragile girlfriend of mine had to leave the theater during one scene). The fact that this is a true story is almost too awful a thought to confront. It continues Eastwood's exploration into violence in America.

It's shallow to reduce Angelina Jolie's performance to "St. Angelina" type comparisons, as one of the reviewers does downthread. Jolie perfectly conveys the surreal horror of the situation she is in that seems to only get progressively worse as the film goes on. Her performance never leans too saintly, even while playing a woman who is almost completely faultless. If she appears beautified towards the end, it's the fault of the script.

The ensemble of this film is strong. Amy Ryan is great in a small role -- she's such a committed actress. Jason Butler Harner, who plays Gordon Northcott, Wineville Chicken Serial Killer, an actor I am unfamiliar with, is one of the standouts. And the young actors who played all the various boys were very good, especially in the haunting finale involving Walter Collins' fate.

Eastwood's score is simple, delicate, sad and beautiful. It's liberally used throughout the film and quite effective. Art direction is superb.

Jolie absolutely deserves a nomination for this performance. This year is turning out to be stacked with some strong, early female lead performances, but her Christine Collins is definitely among them.




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Postby rolotomasi99 » Mon Oct 27, 2008 3:17 pm

Sabin wrote:OG gives it a "C".

Quite frankly, the more I read about 'Changeling' the more I wish it was about a woman who believes that her child is not hers and is driven insane. It wouldn't be an Eastwood movie but it would be an interesting one.

that is exactly how i felt about FLIGHTPLAN.

*SPOILER ALERT FOR FLIGHTPLAN*

as it is, halfway through the movie you find out her child really was kidnapped. the kidnapping itself is ridiculous, the reason why is ridiculous, and how everyone reacts is stupid. i went from loving the movie to hating it.

the movie would have been far more interesting if it were about a mother truly losing her mind. in the beginning you would be totally siding with jodi foster's character, thinking her daughter was taken. then you would realize the truth halfway in, and your allegiance would change to peter sarsgaard as he tries to stop a crazy woman from crashing a plan. that would have been an amazing movie.
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Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 24, 2008 8:26 pm

I think he likes five or six filmmakers. And four of them are Spielberg. And John Moore apparently.
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Postby dws1982 » Fri Oct 24, 2008 8:12 pm

Eastwood is on White's "list". And everyone elses apparently now.

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Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 24, 2008 6:13 pm

Armond White shits all over 'Changeling'.

LADY VENGEANCE
Angelina Jolie is mother on a mission in Clint Eastwood’s latest

By Armond White

Changeling
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 140 min.

Behold the powers of Spike Lee to get under people’s skin! By some unaccountable phenomena, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling resembles a Spike Lee movie. It starts with a simple premise: single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) asks police to find her pre-teen son gone missing in 1928 Los Angeles. Then, like Lee, Eastwood piles on extraneous, aggravating subplots: a corrupt police force (“The Gun Squad”) manipulating Christine’s misfortune; her sexist exploitation by both the rabid media and opportunistic radio evangelist Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich); bogus psychiatry practiced by a menacing shrink (Dennis O’Hare) who terrorizes Christine in a mental institution. Plus, Eastwood’s usual film-noir furbelows: His favorite hues are green and darkness. The only red in the entire film is Jolie’s 3-D lipstick.

For these reasons, Changeling isn’t suspenseful: It’s creepy. Lacking the historical veracity of De Palma’s Black Dahlia, its style is a bizarre form of old-school storytelling, mixing masochistic dread with ugly reportage. The opening credit, “A True Story,” is an immediate bad omen. Fact and fiction are tools that Eastwood uses, like Lee, for a shrewd form of demography. Critic Gregory Solman long ago suggested that Eastwood works both sides of the aisle: Jolie plays a pre-feminist martyr surrounded by men who simultaneously represent conservative repression (the cops) and sentimentality (the Rev.). Eastwood also agitates by throwing in serial-killer episodes that lapse into gruesome pedophilia—including a set of child performances that are the least convincing since Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace.

Also like Lee, Eastwood has a knack for appealing to spurious cultural fears. Changeling (with its sub-Chinatown score) teases the contemporary appetite for dark cynicism. This movie doesn’t celebrate mother-love, but indulges nihilism (“Our protectors have become our brutalizers,” Malkovich warns). Eastwood looks for villainy and then targets villainy. It’s almost devilish: Changeling doesn’t explore post-WWI culture, yet J. Michael Straczynski’s blatantly contrived script distorts pre-Depression-era gloom into timely horror. The psycho ward alibi—”Extraordinary steps were necessary”—is Eastwood’s nod toward Gitmo.

You’d have to be a tabloid addict—or on Eastwood’s sycophantic payroll—to fall for Jolie’s lousy lead performance. At first she evokes the emotional purity of silent-movie icons like Gish and Sibirskaya: Employed as a telephone company supervisor, Christine dutifully roller skates along a bank of circumscribed female phone operators or hovers over her child with maternal dedication. Then Eastwood puts on the screws and Jolie goes limp: She huddles her shoulders, looks sad-eyed under kohl eye-shadow and droopy hats and speaks in a weak, anguished voice. Refusing to challenge society like Meryl Streep’s memorably intransigent bereaved mother in A Cry in the Dark, Jolie goes for pity.

She makes Christine another of those sentimentalized women who have no family or friends for consul (like Frozen River, Ballast). During the tacked-on serial-killer trial, Christine becomes St. Angelina and Lady Vengeance—Jolie also plays both sides of the aisle. Eastwood-Jolie fans are suckers if they mistake Changeling’s B-movie triteness for richly revived Hollywood classicism. Changeling isn’t just a mess of manipulative attitudes like a Spike Lee film, above all, it’s an extremely unpleasant experience.
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Postby Zahveed » Wed Oct 22, 2008 9:44 pm

dreaMaker wrote:Honestly, i am schocked a bit by hearing so much negative buzz around the film.. On Rotten Tomatoes (i'll always say i hate their rating system) idiotic High School Musical 3 got better reviews than The Changeling.. ???

Metacritic is a better gauge IMO.
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Postby Sabin » Wed Oct 22, 2008 7:42 pm

OG gives it a "C".

Quite frankly, the more I read about 'Changeling' the more I wish it was about a woman who believes that her child is not hers and is driven insane. It wouldn't be an Eastwood movie but it would be an interesting one.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby dreaMaker » Wed Oct 22, 2008 7:38 pm

Honestly, i am schocked a bit by hearing so much negative buzz around the film.. On Rotten Tomatoes (i'll always say i hate their rating system) idiotic High School Musical 3 got better reviews than The Changeling.. ???

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Postby Sabin » Wed Oct 08, 2008 7:14 pm

Nick Schager gives it a "C-"

There are three or four movies competing for attention within Changeling, and unfortunately for Clint Eastwood, they’re all equally dreadful melodramatic drivel. In his worst directorial outing since 1999’s True Crime, Eastwood delivers something close to a parody of an Oscar-baiting period picture, establishing a faux-prestigious tone for this “true story” about a 1920s single mother whose son is kidnapped and, when he’s located months later, turns out to be not her son. J. Michael Straczynski’s clip-ready script is a tale of both child and female abuse, as gaunt Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), upon contending that the returned boy isn’t her flesh and blood, comes up against a raft of monstrous misogynistic caricatures led by dismissive captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) and the nasty chief of the psych ward that Christine is eventually sent to after the LAPD – trying to avoid further negative press – grows weary of her nay-saying. A righteous anti-police-corruption pastor (John Malkovich) and a giggly, loose-limbed serial killer also find their way into Changeling, which overstuffs itself with sensationalized narrative rubbish that Eastwood shoots with oppressively decorous, corny stateliness epitomized by a slow-motion shot of cigarette ash landing (with a titanic thud) upon a table. The broad, crude construction of most every peripheral character is matched by the Swiss cheese nature of the film’s plot, so that Eastwood’s attempts to comment on culturally entrenched sexism get lost amidst hoary flashbacks, dull procedural machinations, and B-movie hysterics. These reach a crescendo once Christine is confined to the mental institution, an embarrassing sequence involving evil physicians who make Nurse Ratched look timid, Amy Ryan’s benevolent, foul-mouthed hooker and Christine getting a hackneyed last-second reprieve from electroshock therapy. Amidst the statuette-craving histrionics, Jolie valiantly attempts to suffuse Christine with the powerless heartache, frustration and fury of a grieving mother wronged. Yet between Eastwood’s overbearing direction, his story’s leaden moralizing and clunky logic, and his procession of ever-lamer would-be endings, Jolie’s performance ultimately succumbs to mannered routine, no less self-consciously affected and hollow than the proceedings as a whole.
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Postby Sabin » Thu Oct 02, 2008 8:02 pm

Mike D'Angelo gave it a 67. Which means Mike D'Angelo likes it more than 'Mystic River', Letters from Iwo Jima', and 'Million Dollar Baby'.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Sabin » Thu Oct 02, 2008 6:56 pm

What does this mean? Who knows?

CHANGELING
**/****
by Ed Gonzalez

Bad Clint Eastwood movies tend to play like parodies of good Clint Eastwood movies, and his latest, a loose dramatization of the Wineville Chicken Murders and the accompanying media blitz and police scandal that rocked Los Angeles in the late 1920s, is almost a bigger muddle than Flags of Our Fathers. Angelina Jolie is Christine Collins, whose nine-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), goes missing one day and is returned to her by police some five months later—except they return the wrong boy and Christine, a flapper-type who suggests a Tim Burton corpse bride, will have nothing to do with what appears to be a lunatic police department's perverse effort to correct their piss-poor public image. Throughout the film, a myriad series of dramas and agendas vie for our attention, each painted in strokes as broad as the ones Eastwood applied to Maggie Fitzgerald's family in Million Dollar Baby, so it's a small miracle that Jolie makes even half the impression she does given all of the funereal flotsam and jetsam she must wade through.

At its best when it stays on Christine, the film casually condemns but hardly elaborates on the subjugation of women in American society—at least never with the poignancy, caustic insight or surprise Mad Men imparts every week (whereas the AMC show scrutinizes surface, Changeling is simply one). But Christine is a trooper, and her struggle to be heard by police—namely by the vile Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan)—intermittingly gives the film an electric jolt. Jolie's work in A Mighty Heart was unconvincing, but here she goes deeper, using the cadences of her late mother's voice and memories of the woman, as well as her love for her own children, for touching inspiration. It's an over-thought performance, for sure, often compromised by Eastwood's stilted, fashion-glossy framing of the actress's face, but Jolie's emotions are real enough, and her conviction recalls Julianne Moore's fine contribution—another one of her great riffs on Mother Courage—to the dumb Blindness.

In Fernando Meirelles's latest, Moore stars as the only woman in the world who can see, and in a great scene she must pretend to be blind while a group of guards at her makeshift prison get their sick rocks off by leading her to and away from a stash of food she can easily see in front of her. It's a moment of dizzying depth, most of which is conveyed by an impeccable mix of horror and rage that quivers across every angle of Moore's face. Jolie gets a similar scene in Changeling after Christine declaims too vigilantly that police didn't bring back the same child she birthed, raised and loved all his life, after which she's shipped to a mental institution where she's hilariously briefed by a prostitute (Amy Ryan) about the pathetic ins and outs of the place. Through the pap of these scenes, Jolie gives sad expression to the trapeze act Christine must walk—between showing too much emotion and not enough—when she meets with the doctor conspiring with police to convince her that she was given the right Walter.

Changeling announces itself as an autopsy of an expansive body of lies that it never actually performs, and as such the surprisingly graceless and phony aesthetic is what lingers most. (A book could be written about how Jolie is lit, dressed and framed, and if you also consider the script's reference to the 1935 Oscar ceremony where It Happened One Night reigned supreme, it becomes easy to write off Changeling as shameless awards bait.) Eastwood subsumes everything in histrionically lethargic period detail, but the film's obsessive veneer never feels reflective of the time period. Like the tinkling ivories that tritely and repetitively clog the soundtrack, the film's style scans as empty posturing, not unlike the ash that falls from the cigarette Detective Lester Ybarra (Michael Kelly) smokes after learning what may have actually happened to Walter—a shot that's practically symbolic of the film's tragically digressive attention span.

The title is a reference to the film's two Walters but may also describe Eastwood's jarring shifts in register. The filmmaker sketches all of his characters in one-dimensional extremes, from the ghouls at the police force to the reverend (John Malkovich) whose unelaborated beef with the Los Angeles police department simply explains the vigilance with which he rallies behind Christine. Perhaps Changeling never feels deep because it always feels distracted, playing lip service to its themes and never knowing how to play Christine's struggle: From police station to mental institution to courtroom, she alternately suggests a proto feminist, Rihanna in her Marilyn Manson-ed video for the horrid "Disturbia," and Clarice Starling. A dull genre hopscotch, then, and one with too many endings to count, Changeling is an example of a great director biting off more than he cares to chew, functioning mostly as its own Oscar campaign.
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