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Changeling | Review

New Adventures of a Brave Christine: Eastwood plays it safe with intriguing true story

People in uniform often misappropriate authority and there is plenty of this in Clint Eastwood’s latest, an overly-standardized effort that might in essence, add a touch of class to a sensationalist plotline snatched from the headlines dating back to the 1920’s, but such a monotonous treatment robs the film of the type of complicated emotional curriculum that is so desperately needed. From the same vignoble of moral principles as the female boxer or the old school buddies exacting revenge, The Changeling neatly organizes and compartmentalizes everything from a contained perf in Angelina Jolie to a denouement that does absolutely nothing for the two plus hours of storyline that occurs before it and not much is left to the imagination – bizarre run-ins with the California law in L.A Confidential and Chinatown have a lot more bite than the Eastwood’s formulaic approach.

There was once a time when doctors were telling the public that smoking was good for them, and apparently police officers would close a case before it was even open. J Michael Straczynski’s fact-based screenplay incorporates the mishandling of a case from the LAPD, a story of a brave, won’t-stop-until-they-stop-me heroism and a lurid tale of child abduction, but the core of the narrative is more invested in a lone person battling the system rather than, exploring the groundwork of the sentiment of culpability turned to loss, void, and despair and then turned into rage. Instead Jolie’s Christine Collins is made out to be the precursor of what it is to be a modern day woman today and side characters like John Malkovich’s reverend character who battles corruption as a hobby or the Jeffrey Donovan’s Captain J.J Jones looking for the best place to stand in the spotlight are caricatures that would have played well in a film produced in the 70’s, than in today’s movie watching climate.

While the smoke screen might have worked on the real Collins for a nano-evening, this tale of a switcheroo gone terribly wrong is too concerned with the getting the look right rather than getting the feel right. The film looks great from head to toe, Tom Stern’s camera contains a polished look and a production value that makes 1928 looks good on film, but Eastwood’s timely look of each section in the straight-forward story-arch fails to include the anguish of a distraught, single mother who’s soul propose for living is taken away from her. Jolie does her best in displaying grief in the allotted number of sequences, but Eastwood’s need for morals and a classy touch in the face of a lurid tale simply means there are no opportunities for the storyline to explore the emotional weight of her character and truly dig knee deep into emotions related to loss, void, and despair. Without the mystery and a tacked on big reveal in the shape of an anti-climatic climax, The Changeling will only resonate with crowds who’ve sworn by the American filmmaker’s previous efforts (Mystic River also deals with the ramifications of a child gone missing) – those who need reassurance that random wack-jobs and police screwing up dossiers are a rare occurrence.

Reviewed at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival (Main Competition)

May 20th 2008.

141 Minutes

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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