If director Clint Eastwood’s movie Changeling nabs an Oscars this year, it will only be for Best Costume Design or Best Period Drama That Never Really Grabs Your Attention. Based on a true story, Changeling follows The 1928 kidnapping of Walter Collins. A case full of Police corruption and a mother’s struggle to learn the truth about her son’s disappearance.

Before becoming all preachy and giving you the movie’s inevitable shortcomings, I thought it best to start with the positive. Veteran Cinematographer Tom Stern re-teams with Eastwood to create what is arguably one the best looking period Drama’s since Road to Perdition. Everything from Cereal boxes and telephones, to authentic furniture and Ford Model T automobiles are clearly on display to do their very best at transporting us back to the late 1920′s. The film’s score (also created be Eastwood) is both simplistically beautiful and poignant, only revealing itself in moments of high drama and the end credits. While these characteristics combined with award winning actors should carry the film to triumph, sadly they don’t.

Angelina Jolie has the title role of a mother desperate to find her son, no matter what torment she must endure both privately and public. Jolie proves little more here than she can cry on cue, which is definitely a valuable skill but it doesn’t quite pull off the gravitas of her motherly role. Hard to believe, since last time I checked she had something like twenty kids.

John Malkovich takes a break from wowing us with his fantastic comedic side and returns to a more familiar dramatic role as Rev. Gustav Briegled. A powerful radio pastor who comes to Jolie’s aid as a staunch supporter of fighting corruption in the LAPD. To his credit, Malkovich does make you want to learn more about Rev. Gustav because of the way his character is incapable of speaking more than one syllable at a time.

Though for complete believabilty and a great performance, my vote goes to Geoff Peirson . He convincingly portrays high powered lawyer S S Hahn, a man determined to bring down corruption in all avenues of the city. Pierson only appears onscreen for about seven minutes, but to be honest,  I wasn’t fully invested in the movie until the courtroom scenes that feature him came up. Once again proving the point, there are no small parts.

While Changeling deals with dark subject matter, the fact remains that it never quite grips you in a  way that a film with such a serious issue should. The story is directed in a very straightforward fashion with not much being left to the imagination.There are a few small moments of wishful thinking, but once you figure out where the film is taking you, there’s no happy end in sight. This would have made a fascinating documentary or even PBS series, but as a feature with Oscar goals, it doesn’t stand much of a chance. Sort of like that old family station wagon that sits in front of your newly renivated house. Sure it’s there, but there’s a lot more interesting things to see.