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Changeling (2008)

A movie directed by Clint Eastwood

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A Mother Knows

  • Oct 26, 2008
Rating:
+5
Clint Eastwood's "Changeling" is not easy to watch, but I implore you to give it a try. This is filmmaking at its finest. It's all at once heartbreaking, infuriating, touching, empowering, and immensely compelling, which is to say that it taps into core human emotions without being manipulative. It tells a story so absorbing, it's as if the movie is happening to us instead of just passing before our eyes. This is appropriate given the fact that it's a true story and not merely based on a true story; screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski relied on actual articles, transcripts, and testimonies to document the story of Los Angeles native Christine Collins, whose nine-year-old son, Walter, disappeared in March of 1928. Five months later, the LAPD returned a boy Collins knew was not her son. Because the police refused to admit that a mistake was made, they deemed Collins an unfit mother and subsequently had her committed to a mental institution. But she wouldn't be silenced, and with the help of some key figures, she took on one of the most shameful cases of police corruption in Los Angeles history.

Angelina Jolie gives yet another wonderful performance as Collins, an honest, caring woman who was clearly striving for independence in a male-dominated society. She works diligently as the supervisor for a telephone company, so much so that she's offered a managerial position. As a single mother, she's firm yet nurturing, and she's upfront with her son (Gattlin Griffith) about why his father left before he was born. After Walter's disappearance, and after the wrong boy is returned to her, she initially faces the LAPD on her own, which leaves her with little since it's a tyrannical system motivated by power, not justice. There's a pivotal scene in which Chief of Police James E. Davis (Colm Feore) makes the following announcement: "We will hold trial on gunmen in the streets of Los Angeles. I want them brought in dead, not alive, and I will reprimand any officer who shows the least bit of mercy on a criminal." This is immediately followed by a shot of officers executing a line of criminals in the middle of a dark street. An elimination of the competition. For a system this dishonest, a persistent woman like Collins is seen as nothing but a disruption.

Of all the authority figures in this film, Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) is by far the most deplorable. He's obstinate and domineering, bullying Collins into taking in an imposter child, who was found with a drifter in DeKalb, Illinois. Jones has the nerve to question Collins as a mother, claiming she was so happy her son was taken that she's now resorting to phony accusations. Her insistence that he carry on the investigation lands her in a dehumanizing psychiatric hospital, where numerous disruptive women are sent to endure constant medicating and cruel electroshock therapy. A kindly but broken prostitute (Amy Ryan) tells Collins that there's absolutely no winning with the doctors. If you smile too much, you're delusional. If you smile too little, you're depressed. If you're neutral, then you've lost touch with basic human emotions. All anyone can do is learn how to behave properly.

The only person on Collins' side is Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), a Presbyterian minister and community activist who made it his life's work to expose the corruption of the LAPD during radio sermons. When Collins is committed, Briegleb takes it upon himself to publicize the disappearance of her son and rally the public to support her. This puts tremendous pressure on the LAPD, as does the recent discovery of a crime scene; buried beneath a chicken ranch in Wineville, California are human remains. A mechanic named Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner) becomes the primary suspect in a string of murders. I don't want to reveal any more about this case, but I will make it a point to praise Harner for not playing Northcott as a fanatical stereotype.

Apparently, Straczynski inserted newspaper clippings into copies of his screenplay, just as a reminder to the actors that everything being depicted actually happened. "The story is just so bizarre," he said, "that you need something to remind you that I'm not making this stuff up." Indeed, a lot of what Collins goes through is so outrageous that it's just shy of being funny. She knows, for example, how tall Walter is, for she measured his rate of growth on a wall. The boy who was returned to her is three inches shorter than the last notch. Collins also notices that this boy has been circumcised; she knows for a fact that Walter has not been. A doctor sent by Captain Jones assures Collins that, after months of improper care and nutrition, children can actually shrink. As for the circumcision, well, she should never put it past a kidnapper to do something extreme.

But what about the LAPD? Should she put it past them to do something extreme, such as returning the wrong child and knowing about it? It's easy to watch this movie and feel just as emotionally drained as Collins; there are moments where I wanted to scream, others where I wanted to cry, and many where I didn't know how to feel. This is not a criticism. The success of a movie like "Changeling" depends on a strong emotional gamut that reflects what the audience thinks and feels. This is, without a doubt, one of the year's best films, a powerful human drama dedicated to the ideals of hope and perseverance.

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January 05, 2012
Loved this flick and thought Donovan was excellent in it.
 
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More Changeling reviews
review by . April 13, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
You really have to go a ways to lead with Angelina Jolie and be directed by icon Clint Eastwood, and yet create this lame of a film.  Considering the incredibly disturbing nature of the subjects covered, I was beyond let down by the end when I was not only NOT moved to tears, but totally apathetic.  I have a young daughter, and hesitated to watch this film for fear of becoming even more paranoid about her ever coming in harms way.  Yeah, well... that would require the film touching …
review by . August 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
JEFFREY DONOVAN IS EXCELLENTLY EVIL IN THIS
      CHANGELING      I went into this film for only one reason and it had nothing to do with Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, or Angelina Jolie. I watched this for Jeffrey Donovan since I am a huge fan of his especially his show with Bruce Campbell "Burn Notice", possibly the best show on today. So I was excited to learn that he was in this and had a major role in it as well. Still with that a side every one involved with this film did an excellent job …
Quick Tip by . August 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Caption
This was a wonderful film that I think was snubbed by the Academy but what ever, this film is great with out them. I recommend this flick to any and every one that enjoys a good movie. Normally I would say something like this may not be for every body but this time I will say, every body go get this. Everyone in this film and every one that worked on it should be proud, a marvelous piece of film making based on real events.
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
It was really interesting to see Angelina Jolie in such a fragile role and she did it very well. The way she toughens throughout the story also feels genuine. The wider subject treated in the film was also a piece of history I was intrigued to learn about since I have lived and worked previously in LA's Inland Empire.
Quick Tip by . July 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Angelina Jolie at her best. The story is moving and will make you just mad. I loved it
review by . July 04, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Outstanding performance by Angela Jolie; great supporting cast.     Cons: A little slow at times.     The Bottom Line: A little plodding at times Changeling is a great film and I have little problem recommending it.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. We Americans like to think that our justice system is the best in the world. That our rights, enshrined as they are in the under the Bill of …
review by . September 14, 2009
Changeling is the story, based upon actual events, of Christine Collins' quest to find her young son Walter, missing without a trace. It is also the story of appalling corruption in the government and police department of 1920's-'30's Los Angeles, which apparently has been a significant problem of long-standing. A third subplot involves a serial child killer who may or may not have had contact with Walter, and a forth presents a horrific view of the psychiatric ward in a local hospital.     Ange …
review by . March 04, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
scene
The police finding the wrong boy and insists that it is someone's son…mistakes like this don't happen, do they? Well, apparently they did in Los Angeles back in 1928 and this fact is actually very disquieting. "Changeling" is a film based on the experiences of a woman named Christine Collins and on the murders of a small town outside L.A. called "Wineville". Co-produced by Clint Eastwood and written by one of my favorite writers, J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Midnight Nation, Thor), the film …
review by . March 16, 2009
Christine Collins: The boy they brought back is not my son.       Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. A single mother's only son is missing   2. It takes five months for the Police to reunite the mother and the boy who said "I am the one"   3. But she knew that the kid was not her son   4. The Police Captain insisted: "Don't go Changeling. She'll love you just the way you are"   5. But she didn't   6. …
review by . March 09, 2009
When you watch a historical based true story like the Changeling it's hard to know for sure if the actors are channeling the spirits of those they are portraying. (or if their performace is bad) That being said both Angelina Jolie (Oscar nomination) and Jeffery Donovan do solid jobs at best as they help recreate a story about a real killer in the late 1920s. Clint Eastwood as director and producer kept this film on track as do strong acting performances from John Malkovich and Michael Kelly.  …
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Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Wiki

Changeling is a 2008 American drama film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by J. Michael Straczynski. Set in 1928 Los Angeles, the film is based on the true story of a woman who is reunited with her kidnapped son—only to realize he is an impostor. After confronting the city authorities, she is vilified as an unfit mother and branded delusional. The incident was related to the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, a kidnapping and murder case uncovered in 1928. Changeling explores themes such as feminine disempowerment and corruption in political hierarchies. It was made by Imagine Entertainment and Malpaso Productions for Universal Pictures.

Clint Eastwood’s mastery as a director, established over the past decade and a half withUnforgiven,Million Dollar Baby,Letters from Iwo Jima, and others, continues withChangeling, a 2008 offering based on a shocking but all-too-true story about child abduction and police corruption in 1920s Los Angeles. Single mother Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie, excellent in a role with somewhat limited parameters) finds her 9-year-old son, Walter, missing when she returns home from work one day. She files a report with the Los Angeles Police Department, an outfit that was wildly unpopular at the time (in his regular radio broadcast, a crusading pastor played by John Malkovich decries the force as "violent and corrupt," adding that "our protectors are our brutalizers"). When a child roughly matching Walter’s ...
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Details

Director: Clint Eastwood
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: October 31, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
DVD Release Date: February 17, 2009
Runtime: 141 min
Studio: Universal Studios
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