Friday, April 26, 2013

Movie Review: Changeling

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Acting, music, story, look
Cons: Angelina's crying scenes; time line at the end
The Bottom Line:
Interesting tale
Of a tragic mystery
That's well worth watching

Dramatic Period Mystery

Okay, so here's where I further reveal my geekiness.  I was interested in Changeling for one reason and one reason only - it was written by J. Michael Stracyznski, creator and writer of my favorite TV show of all time, Babylon 5.  But seriously, who goes see a movie because of the writer?  Still, that's how I got talked into seeing it on Friday night.  And I'm glad I did.

It's 1928, and single mom Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is about to face every parent's worst nightmare.  When she has to fill in for a sick co-worker on a Saturday, she leaves nine-year-old Walter (Gattlin Griffith) alone.  And when she returns after work, he is gone.

With her world turned upside down, she begins the hunt to find him.  When the LAPD in the person of Captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan of TV's Burn Notice) tell her they've found him, she's ecstatic.  However, the boy who steps off the train (Devon Conti) is not her son.  And the police won't believe her.

Christine's only ally in trying to get the truth out is the Reverend Brieglab (John Malkovich) who has a local radio program.  Will that be enough to get the corrupt police to do something?  And what has happened to Walter?

This is an engaging story from start to finish.  First, there's the mystery of what really happened to Walter.  Then there are the injustices that Christine faces in her search for the truth.  Between the two, I was riveted the entire time.  I was surprised when it was over to discover the movie was over two hours long.  It didn't seem like it to me at all.

But let me be clear this isn't the normal comedy I enjoy.  Yes, there is one funny scene, but the rest of it is pure drama.

The film recaptures the look and feel of old film noir pieces.  The colors are muted with lots of black, white, and grey.  The one exception is Christine's lipstick, which is almost always bright red.

Clint Eastwood directed the film, but he also did the music.  That surprised me in the credits.  I was looking for it because I wanted to know who the composer was.  The score was haunting and beautiful at the same time.  It couldn't have fit the film better.

And, of course, there are the period details.  Everything from the look of the houses to the cars and even the cable cars were great for putting me in the time period.

The acting was generally good as well.  I did find Angelina's emotional scenes were a little weak.  Maybe it was because her character was crying while trying not to cry.  All her other acting, however, rang true.  The rest of the cast was great in their respective parts.  But I have to praise Devon Conti.  There is something slightly creepy about his performance as the boy who turns up as Walter.  It was absolutely perfect.

I do have some issues with some timeline issues, mainly in the final few scenes.  It almost feels like they cut a corner.  And that's all I can say without spoiling anything.

Speaking of the ending, it could feel drawn out to some.  Personally, it didn't bother me at all.

Even when we were in line to buy our tickets, I was debating whether I really wanted to see Changeling.  I'm thrilled we did.  This is a moving drama that will entertain adults looking for something a little more serious.

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