Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day Nineteen: Changeling

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #230
Year: 2008
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich

I'm beginning to think that there has never been anyone more important to Hollywood than Clint Eastwood. In the '60s, he gave us The Man With No Name. In the '70s, he gave us Dirty Harry, and began to try his hand at directing. By 1992 he had won his first Oscar as a director, and in the last decade, he has churned out masterpieces on a yearly basis, eclipsing directors less than half his age. And the man shows no signs of stopping. It's seriously expensive just to keep up with his movies as they hit the theaters.

For all his quantity, Eastwood compromises no quality. Changeling is no exception. The tone is mostly unique among Eastwood films, as we follow the mother of a lost boy – chillingly portrayed by Angelina Jolie in what has to be her best role ever, even if that is somewhat by default – through her battle with an aloof Los Angeles Police Department that passes off some other kid as her son and throws her in an asylum when she dares to defy them. With the help of a local Presbyterian minister played by John Malkovich, she exposes the corruption within the department, but continues to look for her son even when it seems like she'll never find him. The whole affair is heart string-tugging, but knowing it's a true story certainly helps.

I feel like Clint at least partly made this movie because the other movie he made in 2008 was Gran Torino and he found it more artistically satisfying to shoot a typical Clint Eastwood "I play a badass" movie and one of his most emotionally complex and beautiful films at the same time, but I could be crazy since in 2006 he made two Iwo Jima movies. Either way, there's no questioning the fact that he managed to make two masterpieces in 2008 that will go down in his catalog as classics of the Clint Canon.

The Good: Clint's direction is flawless, of course. Gorgeous shots everywhere and strong performances from the whole ensemble, and especially from Angelina Jolie. She out-acted Brad that year, and he played a backwards-aging Forrest Gump. Just sayin'.

The Bad: There really is no weak point to this movie. If anything, it's that we don't get time to become emotionally attached to the lost boy before his disappearance some twenty minutes into the movie, but even that is saved by Jolie's performance and how much she clearly cares about him.

The Skinny: #230 is way too low. I'm sort of a Clint fanboy, but I'd say this deserves to be Top 100, or, at the very least, it deserves to swap places with #145 Million Dollar Baby.


  1. This is one that I don't think should be on the list.
    While Jolie and Malkovich were great I felt this movie was (and I'm not trying to sound ADD but...) too damn long.
    And all of that length only to give me an ambiguous ending... but not just ANY ambiguous ending and ambiguous ending that is immune to theories, suggestions, or hope.
    The film is just too grim and I think it loses life because of it. The hanging scene was unnecessary. There are more classy ways to show such a terrible thing.
    It was almost like Eastwood WANTED me, as an audience member, to support the punishment at large. I personally thought that it only showed that our government is just as terrible in it's punishment as that man was to the children.
    Although I do agree with the fact that it's better than Million Dollar Baby.

  2. Man, maybe it's because I was really relaxed while I was watching, but too damn long is the last phrase I would use to describe it. I wanted to keep watching when it ended. The ambiguity of the ending was frustrating but, since this was based on a true story, perhaps the only way to do it? I really dug the script by J. Michael Straczynski too, but I'm a comic book nerd as well as a movie nerd, so that might mean nothing to you. Jolie's performance was stellar too; the more I think about it the more I like it.

    And I kind of think Clint would have supported the hanging. He's an 80 year old man with some very traditional views and a very black and white idea of right and wrong. I won't fault him for it, but he probably directed the hanging scene in a very specific way to evoke exactly what you felt, only he supported it. Just an idea.

    By the way, thanks for your very intelligent comments. I really appreciate the luxury of having somebody come on here and actually carry on a dialogue with me.

  3. Its funny that you don't even mention the atrociously boring side-plot about the policeman, since it was those segments that ruined the movie for every discriminating viewer. Just like anything John Michael Straczynski has ever put his hands on, it tries to show way too much and thus fails at doing anything well. But it looks like your eyes are too covered with Eastwood's spunk to give any real critical thought to his films.