Changeling, in case you haven't turned on a television in four months or haven't driven anywhere in Los Angeles in the past two months, is the newest film from Clint Eastwood, starring Angelina Jolie. Clint Eastwood has given us several great movies over the past few years, including Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River. Like both of these movies, Changeling deals with several issues that I don't like to think about: kidnapping, pure evil, capital punishment, police corruption. In its dealing with all of these issues and more, the film left me haunted.
The movie is based on the true story of the kidnapping of nine-year-old Walter Collins in Los Angeles in 1928, and his mother Christine's quest to find him. As you can tell from any preview, Walter is missing for a few months and then a different boy is returned to Christine Collins. Christine protests, tries to tell the police that this is not her son. The LAPD, already suffering from a bad image, insists that this IS her son. So goes the next hour and a half of the movie (TRT: 2:30).
What we learn as the movie goes on is that it's the Walter Collins kidnapping is only a smaller story in a much bigger story. The bigger story is that of the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. Once all of this story is interjected, the movie becomes completely unbelievable. It would be at this point in the movie that I would stop my "willing suspension of disbelief" and start scoffing and checking my watch. The only problem is, the story is true. Most of the movie is rooted in actual events, with a few minor changes or additions made (I'm assuming) to further the action and drama. But the bulk of what happens, the really disturbing stuff that happens - it's all true. It all really happened.
Angelina Jolie is, not surprisingly, amazing in this role. Her emotion is raw and appropriate, and only in Christine's rough handling of the man convicted in the Wineville Chicken Coop murders (she slams him against a barred window) did I see more of Angelina than the character. It was hard not to draw comparisons to her character in Girl, Interrupted in some of the psychiatric ward scenes. I'm biased when it comes to Angelina, but I really do think she is arguably one of the best actors today, and this movie continues to prove my theory.
And how much do I love Amy Ryan? She shines in this movie - I can't wait to see more from her.
I think my survival instinct kicked in while I watched this movie, because while I felt bad for Christine, my reaction was not tears, it was more of shocked disbelief. I found myself saying, "I can't believe that," and then I would remind myself, well, it happened, so you might as well believe it. A lot of the times, I would think, THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!!! and then I would remember - oh yeah, it did. I think this whole tug and pull of my emotions and my knowledge that it was a true story impeded my ability to truly enjoy the film. I really liked it - but it was almost too much for me. The bad guy was too bad, the scenario was too devastating, the mother was too wronged. It's almost as if it's just too horrible to be true. When I left the movie and came home, I didn't have the gift of forgetting as I do when I see a movie not based in fact. To think that this happened, that this was allowed to happen was too much for me to process. It was fascinating but not enjoyable, and maybe I would have liked it better if it were one of those crime shows on extended basic cable. However, while I haven't seen pictures of Christine Collins, I would venture a guess she's not nearly as hot as Angelina.
One more thing - I urge the my friends with children to skip this movie.