Changeling Review
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People go to the movies for all kinds of different reasons. Some go for fun—for a few brainless laughs or an over-the-top adventure. Some go to escape the monotony of their own lives by immersing themselves in a fluffy fairy tale. Some go to be moved—or informed. And others go as they would to a museum—to take in a piece of art.

This time of the year, as studios roll out what we critics like to call Oscar Bait, they focus on the latter two—and that’s certainly the case with the latest film from director Clint Eastwood. So if you’re a just-for-fun kind of moviegoer, you might just want to move on to my review of Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri.

Based on shockingly true events, Changeling is the story of Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a single mother whose nine-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), goes missing from their LA home in the spring of 1928.

After months of hoping for the best but fearing the worst, Christine is thrilled to hear that her son has been found traveling with a drifter in Illinois. But the boy that Captain J. J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) reunites her with obviously isn’t her son.

Under the control of an infamously corrupt chief of police, the last thing the LAPD needs is more bad press. So instead of working with Christine to find the real Walter, Captain Jones does everything he can to prove her wrong. And when she still won’t listen, he does the unthinkable in order to keep her quiet.

Meanwhile, another officer is sent out to investigate a call about an illegal immigrant—and he ends up uncovering a horrifying crime.

Changeling is a difficult movie—a challenging movie. It’ll pull you into the story and make you feel the characters’ emotions—the anger, the frustration, the sadness, and the confusion. For that reason, it’s not an easy film to watch. On the contrary, it’s often extremely uncomfortable. It’s long and heavy and heart-crushingly tragic. But it’s also a powerful film that you won’t soon forget.

Mother of six Jolie gives an outstanding performance as the devoted single mom who chooses to stand up and fight—even though the odds keep stacking up against her. She’s so expressive that you’ll feel the character’s sorrow and frustration—but she refrains from turning her character into a victim. She isn’t a blubbering mess, but she’s not out for revenge, either. She just wants help finding her son. Jolie gives the character a perfect mix of vulnerability and strength. And, in doing so, she makes the character both likeable and admirable—and she even manages to give an otherwise devastating story just the slightest touch of hope.

Still, as a woman, I found the story both maddening and horrifying. I couldn’t believe the way that the main character was patronized and pushed aside and publicly humiliated—all because she stood up for herself and her son. At times, it seems so outrageous…so ridiculous. It’s just so hard to believe that an innocent woman would get that kind of treatment from the people who are supposed to help her—or that it happened here, in one of our big, civilized cities, instead of in some unenlightened third-world country. And that makes it so much more tragic.

So, again, Changeling isn’t a fun movie. It’s also not a perfect movie. And even though I’m now struck by its strengths, I didn’t walk out of the theater raving; I walked out of the theater feeling exhausted and slightly depressed. It’s long—maybe a half-hour longer than necessary—and it’s heavy. And it will break your heart. But, thanks to a solid story and spectacular performances by several members of the cast, this powerful and thought-provoking film is well worth it.

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