Saturday, November 1, 2008

REVIEW: Changeling...



I hate having to make decisions. The past few weeks have seen a few big time movie releases, with about one or two each week. However, this week was different. First there was Zack and Miri Make a Porno, a Kevin Smith film, which makes it a must go for me, and then there is RockNRolla, and the new Clint Eastwood film, Changeling. So, Saturday comes, and I need to make a decision, and choose either Changeling or RockNRolla. So, with RockNRolla I know exactly what I would get, as Guy Ritchie is directing, so I decided to go with the film that could surprise me the most, even with the split reviews, Changeling. Was it worth it?

Changeling is a new film based on events during the 1920's in which a mother, Christine Collins, played by Angelina Jolie, fights to get her kidnapped son back. When a boy is returned to her, she immediately suspects that it is not her child, and begins to fight the corrupt LAPD to find out what really happened to her child. It's 1928, and women were not allowed to fight the system, and when she decides that she will fight this injustice that she is going through, only one person will aid her, a local Reverend, played by John Malkovich. She is persecuted by the police, but will not stop until justice has been achieved.

As I said in the beginning, this is the newest film from the bad-ass film veteran, Clint Eastwood. His last two films were Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers, and this film sort of continues where those two left off in quality. This is a really mixed film.

The film is absolutely gorgeous. It's set in the 20's-30's L.A., and the period is completely sold. From the out set when the opening credits begin with the original Universal Pictures logo, you feel as though you are watching a film set in the '20's. The set and costume design are immaculate. Also, most of the performances are also really solid, starting with Angelina Jolie in the starring role. She does a solid job, and especially in her emotional moments, you feel for this women, and that is what she was there to do. She totally sells the emotional scenes, and the way that simple point and shoot shots of her face can convey as much emotion as they do is something to applaud.

The supporting cast does it's job as well, especially Geoffrey Pierson as the legal aid to Ms. Collins, S.S. Hahn. There is a court scene between him and Jeffery Donovan, who plays the corrupt police Captain J.J. Jones that steals the show and, simply put, is powerful. He shines in his tiny role, and one of the true highlights of this film is Soprano staple, Michael Kelly who is one of the only people stuck in the much needed shade of grey, Detective Lester Ybarra, who truly breaks this case, and picks this film up.

Also, this is one of the only times that the length hasn't bothered me. It's a very long film, or at least it feels like it, and I think it works that way, and in the end you figure out why it took so long. The script was well written, the cinematography was beautiful, and Mr. Eastwood let the story shine through as the film doesn't go for a whole lot of style, and it really works. It's a very symmetrical film, at least in the framing, and the most motion you get are in some sweeping entrances into scenes, or exits. The story is the biggest part of this film, and in that, it totally works.

However, the film does have some glaring flaws. The biggest problem I had with this film were a few of the supporting performances. While most were really top notch, two in particular really lacked the spark needed to really get this film going, the biggest one being John Malkovich. I love John Malkovich, but he is nothing more than over the top window dressing, as you never really know what he's doing for or in the film. He's supposed to be the only support she gets, but he isn't given enough time on screen to really work. Also, Jeffery Donovan, most famous for being the guy from Burn Notice, doesn't work at all as one of the corrupt cops in the LAPD.

That leads me to the other big negative I have with this film. There is very little grey in this film. What I mean is that there are the completely black side, the cops, and the white, Collins and the Reverend, and not really any grey. That is, until the aforementioned Detective Ybarra comes into the film, and it feels like a much needed breathe of fresh air, and I just wanted more. As I said before, the film does really lag in the middle, yet some of the set pieces are so well done, that it doesn't completely take you out of the film. I began to get restless with it, more frustrated than anything (especially when I had someone pretty much kick me in the head from behind me) yet when Jolie was on screen or during a few of the set pieces near the end, I was brought right back.

I had pretty high expectations going into this film, and they were just made.

CHANGELING: 7.5/10

Featuring a mixed bag of performances, this film is saved by a compelling story, and a few of the best dramatic set pieces I've seen all year.

Come back later for your Weekend Wrap Up!

Go see something good!

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