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 ReallyÂ Grabs Your Attention. Based on a true story, Changeling followsÂ The 1928 kidnapping of Walter Collins.Â A caseÂ 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 theÂ movie’s inevitable shortcomings, I thought it best to start with the positive. Veteran Cinematographer Tom Stern re-teams with Eastwood to create whatÂ is arguably one the best looking period Drama’s since Road to Perdition. Everything from Cereal boxes and telephones,Â to authentic furniture andÂ Ford Model T automobiles are clearlyÂ on displayÂ toÂ do their very bestÂ at transporting us back to the late 1920′s. The film’s score (also created be Eastwood) is both simplistically beautiful andÂ poignant,Â onlyÂ revealing itselfÂ 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. JolieÂ proves little more here than she can cry on cue, which is definitely a valuable skillÂ but itÂ doesn’t quite pull off the gravitas ofÂ 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.Â AÂ powerful radio pastor who comes to Jolie’s aidÂ as a staunch supporter of fightingÂ corruption in theÂ LAPD. To his credit, Malkovich does make you want to learn more about Rev. GustavÂ becauseÂ of the way his characterÂ isÂ incapable ofÂ speakingÂ more thanÂ one syllable at a time.
Though for complete believabilty and a great performance,Â my vote goes to Geoff Peirson . HeÂ convincingly portrays high powered lawyer S S Hahn, aÂ manÂ determined to bring down corruption in all avenues of the city. Pierson only appears onscreen for about seven minutes,Â but to be honest, Â I wasn’t fully invested in the movie until the courtroom scenes that feature himÂ 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 youÂ inÂ aÂ wayÂ that a film with such a serious issue should.Â The story is directed inÂ a very straightforward fashion with not much being left to the imagination.There areÂ a few small moments ofÂ wishful thinking, but onceÂ you figure out where the film is taking you, there’s no happy end in sight. ThisÂ would have madeÂ a fascinating documentaryÂ or even PBS series,Â but as a feature with Oscar goals, it doesn’t stand muchÂ of a chance. Sort of like that old family station wagon that sits in front of your newly renivatedÂ house.Â Sure it’s there, but there’s a lot more interesting things to see.