Changeling reviews

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Postby MovieWes » Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:41 pm

Big Magilla wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:The euphoria of those initial critics is not universally felt. Manohla Dargis and Lisa Schwarzbaum have both expressed verging-on-negative opinions; they were especially not taken with Jolie's performance (both suggest her star persona gets in the way).

Didn't they say the same about A Mighty Heart?

Eastwood has another one-two punch due at year end with Gran Torino opening in New York December 28th.

I don't think that Gran Torino is going to factor, since everything I've read and heard about it seems to indicate that it's a light comedy and not an Oscar-baity picture at all. That's not to say that it won't make in impact at the Oscars, but it seems that The Changeling is Eastwood's Oscar entry.

But then again, it might be another Flags/Letters or maybe, God forbid, even another Erin Brockovich/Traffic situation.
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Postby rolotomasi99 » Fri Sep 12, 2008 11:04 am

whoa! powerful trailer. eastwood's films are usually notable for their graceful calm, so this trailer was surprising. hopefully it is just over zealous marketers, otherwise my hopes for this movie (beyond just oscar night) could be ruined.
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Postby flipp525 » Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:28 pm

Pivotal scene from The Changeling.

Edited By flipp525 on 1213982924
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Postby Big Magilla » Tue Jun 10, 2008 12:04 pm

Mister Tee wrote:The euphoria of those initial critics is not universally felt. Manohla Dargis and Lisa Schwarzbaum have both expressed verging-on-negative opinions; they were especially not taken with Jolie's performance (both suggest her star persona gets in the way).

Didn't they say the same about A Mighty Heart?

Eastwood has another one-two punch due at year end with Gran Torino opening in New York December 28th.
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue Jun 10, 2008 10:12 am

Short notes on the film:

It's now back to The Changeling; speculation of a title shift was ephemeral.

It will open in NY/LA October 24th.

The euphoria of those initial critics is not universally felt. Manohla Dargis and Lisa Schwarzbaum have both expressed verging-on-negative opinions; they were especially not taken with Jolie's performance (both suggest her star persona gets in the way).

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Postby Sabin » Tue May 20, 2008 12:07 pm

With Sean Penn heading the jury, the question should be either A) Which "socially relevant" film will win the Palme, or B) How many awards will Clint Eastwood take?
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 20, 2008 10:52 am

I've been saying for a while that Eastwood is a rare public personage who's re-written the first line of his obituary fairly late in life -- it'll still say International Star of Westerns and Police Thrillers, but will have to also include Acclaimed Multi-Oscar-Winning Director. The only comparison I can think of is Joe Torre, who, till a decade or so ago, would have been Popular Player, Manager and Announcer, Former MVP, but now will be Multi-Championship-Winning Manager of the Yankees.

It's exceedingly rare for a commercial Hollywood film to get Palme D'Or consideration (nothing for No Country, Mystic River, LA Confidential), but only the Despechin film seems to have got as positive a response this year.

Another rave, from the Hollywood Reporter:

Film review: Changeling
Bottom Line: Clint Eastwood again brilliantly portrays the struggle of the outsider against a fraudulent system.
By Kirk Honeycutt
May 20, 2008

Angelina Jolie in Changeling
Changeling, Cannes In Competition

For only the second time in his filmmaking career, Clint Eastwood's celebration of the loner who bucks the system, the "cowboy" who demands justice without concern for personal jeopardy, settles on a heroine. Like Hilary Swank's boxer in "Million Dollar Baby," Angelina Jolie's single mother, Christine Collins, takes every punch thrown at her and comes back fighting. Her combat is not in a boxing ring -- where fighting is supposed to take place -- but rather in a corrupt police department, psychiatric ward and the court of justice where she demands to know one thing: What happened to her son?

A true story that is as incredible as it is compelling, "Changeling" brushes away the romantic notion of a more innocent time to reveal a Los Angeles circa 1928 awash in corruption and steeped in a culture that treats women as hysterical and unreliable beings when they challenge male wisdom.

Jolie puts on a powerful emotional display as a tenacious woman who gathers strength from the forces that oppose her. She reminds us that there is nothing so fierce as a mother protecting her cub.
The combination of Jolie and Eastwood would ordinarily mean boffo boxoffice, but "Changeling" is a tricky movie to market as it touches on every parent's greatest fear -- the disappearance of a child -- and is a period film that deals with a situation unimaginable in contemporary American society. Universal's challenge is to make the film's concerns connect with an audience more interested in the kind of police corruption usually found in Scorsese films.

In March 1928, Christine Collins' nine-year-old son Walter vanishes. Five months later, the LAPD, already under the gun for other unsolved crimes, calls out the press and delivers to Christine a boy who claims to be her son but is not. To avoid embarrassment, Captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) demands she take the boy home on a "trial basis." When she continues to insist that the LAPD needs to find her real son, Jones does what the department always does with troublesome citizens -- he locks her up in a psycho ward.

A radio minister, Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), takes up her cause and challenges the police version of events. Meanwhile, another officer, Detective Ybarra (Michael Kelly), launches an investigation into a potential serial killer (Jason Butler Harner) that not only proves Christine's contention but exposes the force, its chief and the mayor to the wrath of a citizenry feed up with living in a police state.

This story, uncovered by screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski in the city's own records and newspapers, adds a forgotten chapter to the L.A. noir of "Chinatown" and "Hollywood Confidential." Christine's utter intransigence and true-seeking in the face of absolute corruption does what no newspaper in that city is willing to do -- challenge the official stories of City Hall.

Sticking fairly closely to the facts, the movie necessarily drags us through a couple of courtrooms that cause the drama to sag momentarily. But Straczynski and Eastwood are good at cutting to the chase. Seldom does a 141-minute movie feel this short.

Jolie completely shuns her movie star image to play a woman whose confidence in everything she thinks she knows is shaken to its very core. She can appear vulnerable and steadfast in the same moment. This woman has a depth she herself has never explored.

Save for another incarcerated police victim played by the fabulous Amy Ryan, most other roles tend toward righteousness or badness without too many shades in between.

The movie draws considerable strength from Eastwood's own melodic score that evokes not only a period but also the mood of a city and even a country nervously undergoing galvanic changes. The small-town feel to the street and sets, seeming oh-so-quaint to modern eyes, captures a society resistant to seeing what is really going.

So in "Changeling" Eastwood continues to probe uncomfortable subjects to depict the individual and even existential struggle to do what is right. Christine sees no other option. And in pursuing the truth, she forces a city to take a stand and demand accountably from its politicians and police. Her boy has been changed under her horror-stricken nose. But then again, so has she.

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Postby OscarGuy » Tue May 20, 2008 10:05 am

Was there ever a director in film history who achieved such success so late in their career. Most of the most historically successful directors started young and received critical acclaim early in life.
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Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 20, 2008 9:58 am

Screen Daily

Changeling / The Exchange
Mike Goodridge in Cannes
20 May 2008 12:39

Dir: Clint Eastwood. US. 2008. 141mins.

Clint Eastwood's late-life renaissance continues at full steam with a typically understated and emotionally wrenching drama based on true events from Los Angeles in 1928. Beautifully produced and guided by Eastwood's elegant, unostentatious hand, it also boasts a career-best performance by Angelina Jolie who has never been this compelling. Like Mystic River in 2003, it should go all the way from the Palais to the Academy Awards next March.

In box office terms, The Exchange, only recently retitled from Changeling, has some challenges, notably a long running time and a harrowing subject matter which will make parents everywhere think twice before seeing it. But like other Eastwood films before it – Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby – it will ride on a wave of critical acclaim and awards, and rack up hefty grosses domestically. Mystic River grossed $90m domestically and $66.5m in international, Million Dollar Baby did $100.4m and $120m respectively.

Eastwood wastes no time in setting the scene. Jolie plays a working class single mother called Christine Collins who takes the tram every morning, drops off her nine year-old son Walter off at his school and goes on to her job as a telephone operator.

One Saturday (March 10 to be precise), Christine is called in to work and leaves Walter at home. When she returns, he has disappeared. An exhaustive search follows for several months to no avail, but five months later, when she has all but given up hope, police captain JJ Jones (Donovan) arrives at her workplace to announce that the boy has been found in Ilinois.

However, when he reaches Union Station in Los Angeles in a mass of cops, reporters and photographers, Christine is shocked to see that the boy isn't Walter. Afraid that he and the force will be embarrassed, Jones persuades her to take the child home, but, her worry for the real Walter reignited, she returns to the police the following day with irrefutable proof that the boy isn't hers – he is not only three inches shorter than Walter but he is circumcised whereas Walter wasn't.

As her despair for her son and her anger at the captain's inaction intensifies, she is approached by a community activist (Malkovich) who has a weekly radio broadcast in which he rails against the city's notoriously corrupt police force. He helps her mount a campaign to take on the system which is now questioning her sanity and fitness as a mother.

If the synopsis sounds like a woman-against-the-system story a la Erin Brockovich, the similarities end there. As played by Jolie, Collins is no vulgar broad with a push-up bra and shovelfuls of sass but a dignified, quiet woman whose fury is tempered by her maternal fears for her son's safety.

Nor does the Collins story proceed in a conventionally inspiring way. As Jones has her committed to a sanatorium and she begins a period of menacing incarceration, Eastwood concurrently introduces another plotline in the desert outside Los Angeles where Detective Lester Ybarra (Kelly) is pursuing an illegal teen from Canada for deportation and stumbles across a horrifying crime spree.

Eastwood's forte has always been as a storyteller with the most unobtrusive style. Yet he records the events in front of the camera with such a humanist eye that the resultant power of his material is immense. Indeed, for all the battle against injustice in this story, his compassion for a mother longing to have her son back is always his primary concern.

Jolie plays along with the general restraint, giving her most internal performance to date, while the supporting cast – notably Donovan, Kelly and Amy Ryan as a prostitute also wrongly incarcerated by the police – is uniformly fine.

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 20, 2008 9:57 am

And Variety -- under The Changeling. Apparently there's some confusion what the ultimate title will be...but no confusion about the film's quality.


A thematic companion piece to "Mystic River" but more complex and far-reaching, "Changeling" impressively continues Clint Eastwood's great run of ambitious late-career pictures. Emotionally powerful and stylistically sure-handed, this true story-inspired drama begins small with the disappearance of a young boy, only to gradually fan out to become a comprehensive critique of the entire power structure of Los Angeles, circa 1928. Graced by a top-notch performance from Angelina Jolie, the Universal release looks poised to do some serious business upon tentatively scheduled opening late in the year.

Constructed around the infamous "Wineville Chicken Murders" in Riverside County, Calif., which achieved great notoriety at the time and, surprisingly, have never inspired a film before, the outstanding screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski (creator of TV's "Babylon 5") has deceptive simplicity and ambition to it, qualities the director honors by underplaying the melodrama and not signaling the story's eventual dimensions at the outset. Characters and sociopolitical elements are introduced with almost breathtaking deliberation, as dramatic force and artistic substance steadily mount across the long-arc running time.

With a melancholy mood set by Eastwood's typically spare guitar-and-piano score, the languid opening stretch stresses the ordinary nature of life for single mother Christine Collins (Jolie) and her 10-year-old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith), who share a modest house in a quiet neighborhood in Los Angeles. Christine has the photogenic job of telephone supervisor on roller-skates, overseeing dozens of female operators as they connect calls at a giant switchboard. Early sound films were loaded with scenes of smart-talking women handling phone lines; Eastwood takes advantage of the inspiration of skates to cover them in neat tracking shots.

One day when Christine is late getting home from work, Walter is gone. Nearly five months later, Christine is informed that her son has been found in Illinois. With all attendant hoopla for the benefit of the press and police, a reunion is arranged at the train station, but, as soon as the boy steps onto the platform, Christine knows this kid is not her son.

The police, fronted by Capt. J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), insist otherwise, waving off definitive evidence relating to physical discrepancies. Even when Walter's dentist, teacher and fellow students insist he's not the right boy, the replacement himself remains maddeningly resolute, driving the otherwise level-headed Christine to distraction.

Or at least that's the way it looks to the cops, who promptly throw her in the psycho ward for her alleged delusion. Fears that the story is now destined to veer off into "The Snake Pit" or, given Jolie's presence, "Girl, Interrupted" looney-bin horrors prove largely unfounded, despite a couple of brief electroshock scenes. Rather, this is where the picture really spreads its wings, as ramifications of this tragic but unexceptional case seep through the police department, the legal system, the medical establishment and City Hall in entirely unexpected ways.

Initially, this is due to the tireless efforts of a crusading radio evangelist, the Rev. Gustav Briegleb (an intent, focused John Malkovich), one of whose missions is to expose what he sees as the complete corruption of the LAPD under Chief James E. Davis (Colm Feore). On Christine's side from the beginning, the pastor persists in using her case to spotlight the department's malfeasance, and the character is notable as one of the few screen depictions of a righteous Christian leader of this period (the era of Aimee Semple McPherson) to be cast in an entirely favorable light.

Irrevocably setting the judicial machinery in motion is a boy in his early teens (Eddie Alderson, extraordinary) who movingly tells police about some horrific murders of kidnapped boys he's unwillingly participated in with an unhinged young man, Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner), out in the desert. What happens next -- to Capt. Jones, the police chief, the mayor and the murderers, among others -- is all part of the public record and the less than salubrious history of Los Angeles politics.

The intercutting of two heavyweight proceedings, a murder trial and a landmark City Hall hearing, provide the story's dramatic crescendo, although even greater tension stems from what comes thereafter. In the end, "Changeling" joins the likes of "Chinatown" and "L.A. Confidential" as a sorrowful critique of the city's political culture.

A dozen filmmakers could have taken a dozen different approaches to the same material -- sensationalistic, melodramatic, expose-minded, a kid's or killer's p.o.v., and so on. Perhaps the best way to describe Eastwood's approach is that he's extremely attentive -- to the central elements of the story, to be sure (with its echoes of "A Perfect World"), but also to the fluidity between the private and the public, the arbitrariness of life and death, the distinct ways different people view the same thing, the destructive behavior of some adults toward children and the quality of life in California around the time he was born.

Despite the material's dark themes, the Los Angeles setting helps make "Changeling" one of Eastwood's most visually vivid films; cinematographer Tom Stern's mobile camera has a graceful elegance, and several panoramic CGI vistas merge smoothly with location lensing to unemphatically evoke the dustier, less congested city of 80 years ago. Production designer James J. Murakami's many sets impressively create a constant play of light and dark environments, and further period verisimilitude stems from Deborah Hopper's costumes and the occasional presence of the extinct Red Car trolleys.

As she did in "A Mighty Heart," Jolie plays a woman abruptly and agonizingly deprived of the person closest to her. But impressive as she may have been as the wife of Danny Pearl, her performance here hits home more directly due to the lack of affectation -- no accent, frizzed hair or darkened complexion, and no attempt to consciously rein in emotion. There are inevitable one-note aspects to her Christine Collins, as she must exasperatedly repeat her positions to the authorities again and again. But Jolie makes it clear Christine maintains a grip on her sanity in the face of many assaults on its stability.

Pic offers a wealth of sterling supporting turns, from significant ones down to fleeting bit parts. The pressure felt by the police to toe the party line is deftly expressed in different ways by Donovan, Feore and Michael Kelly, the latter very fine as the cop who unearths the evidence at the murder site. Harner is startlingly unpredictable as the showboating but wimpy killer, while Geoff Pierson is commandingly charismatic as the eminent lawyer who calls the city big shots to account.

Postscript noting the fates of certain characters conveniently elides the sad and/or ironic destinies awaiting some of them.

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Postby Mister Tee » Tue May 20, 2008 9:51 am

Truly, am I the only one who bothers posting reviews these days? I really miss Sonic, for all sorts of reasons.

Anyway...early word on this one is EXCELLENT.

Clint and Angelina Bring a Changeling Child to Cannes

Tuesday, May. 20, 2008 By RICHARD CORLISS

At the wedding of art and industry that is the Cannes Film Festival, Clint Eastwood is by far the most famous bridesmaid. Since 1985 this Hollywood legend has brought five films to Cannes — not as special screenings, where he has nothing to lose, but in the ego-bruising competition for the top prize — and the first four times (with Pale Rider, Bird, White Hunter Black Heart and Mystic River he's gone home empty-handed. It's not that the old cowboy needs another trophy: he's twice won Oscars for best director and best picture, with Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby. Perhaps the businessman in him knows that his movies will get more free publicity when he stands on the Grand Palais steps, and his image is broadcast around the world, than he would if they were to win the Palme d'Or.

And so on Tuesday night he will stride across the red carpet, accompanied by that nonpareil paparazzi magnet Angelina Jolie, for the screening of Changeling. The speculation is that Eastwood has a better shot at winning this year because the head of the festival Jury is Sean Penn, who won the best actor Oscar for Mystic River and may think he owes Clint a favor. It's also the consensus that this session of Cannes, where more than half the competing films have already been shown, is a relatively weak one, and that Eastwood's most acclaimed competitor so far is the Israeli animated documentary Waltz With Bashir. We'll see. Only the rash try to read the minds of the jurors, and every year's awards list brings surprises and disappointments.

Changeling is an epic, fact-based story — depicting sadistic, systematic corruption in the municipal government, the police department and the medical establishment of 1920s Los Angeles — that has the novelty of being virtually unknown today. It juggles elements of L.A. Confidential, The Black Dahlia, The Snake Pit and any number of serial-killer thrillers. But at its center are the heartache and heroic resolve of a woman who has lost the one person she loves most and is determined to find him, dead or alive, against all obstacles the authorities place in her way. In that sense the movie is a companion piece to last year's Cannes entry A Mighty Heart, in which Jolie played the wife of kidnapped journalist Daniel Pearl — except that Changeling is far more taut, twisty and compelling.

Christine Collins (Jolie) works as a supervisor at Pacific Telephone and Telegraph, where she patrols the operator bank on roller skates. She's a conscientious employee, but her life is devoted to her nine-year-old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith), whose father walked out when the child was born. One day Christine returns home to find Walter missing. As the days and months drag on, his disappearance becomes big news, and when word comes that the boy has been located, the press is there en masse at the train station. Instantly she sees that this "Walter" (Devon Conti) is not her son; but the police insist that he's Walter — case closed.

The officer in charge, Capt. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), dismisses Christine's evidence of differences between the two boys: this one is a few inches shorter, his dental records don't match Walter's, his teacher doesn't recognize him ... and he's been circumcised! When Christine presses her objections, Jones has her confined to the psychopathic ward of the Los Angeles Hospital, in the company of other women with the potential to embarrass the cops. ("If we're insane," says Amy Ryan as a prostitute subjected to electroshock therapy for her outspokenness, "nobody has to listen to us.") Her only ally is a preacher and radio crusader, Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), who sees Christine's case as another heinous example of the Police Dept.'s venality.

Meanwhile, a vagrant boy (Eddie Alderson, the best of a very strong bunch of child actors here) directs a police detective to a chicken ranch in Wineville, about 40 miles west of L.A. There, a Canadian named Gordon Northcott (nicely played by Jason Butler Harner as a man who tries to hide his darkest impulses under the aw-shucks amiability of a Gary Cooper rube) has committed atrocities on some 20 kidnapped boys. Are these crimes related to Walter's disappearance? And if so, will the cops bring the matter into the glare of publicity, or suppress the awful information?

A movie with all these gruesome elements could easily be sensational. Maybe it should be. Maybe the telling should have a little flair, and a headlong rush toward dreadful truths. But that's not Eastwood's way. He just wants to tell the story, in uninflected, police-procedural fashion; the movie is like a flatfoot following a suspicious trail with no special intuition but an admirable doggedness. It doesn't hurtle, it ambles. You will look elsewhere (on the Internet) for documentation about the Wineville Chicken Coop matter, and the criminality of then-Mayor George Cryer as a pawn of the Crawford mob, of the L.A.-wide corruption that makes Al Capone's Chicago a shining city on a hill by comparison. Eastwood is after just the facts, ma'am — with occasional prime emoting from Jolie.

With flaring red lipstick on a face that hasn't seen much time in the California sun, and with a grieving matched in severity only by her will to learn the truth, Jolie carries the burden of the first hour. As the story expands, and finds new avenues of real-life horror, Jolie can coast on the narrative instead of having to push it with her grit and tears. The movie becomes an ensemble piece, with a dozen or so character actors carrying the storyline. In other words, Changeling is exactly as good as its makings. By the end, with its purposeful accumulation of depravities, both individual and institutional, Eastwood's non-style has paid off; the story's weight could come close to burying you in despair.

You may ask: There's that much evil in the world? And Clint, thinking more about storytelling craft than Cannes crockery, would say, Sure. But there are heroes too. And this time, the righteous gunslinger is a mom with no weapon but her inexhaustible love.

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