I finally caught Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, over the weekend. This portrayal of the 1920s Los Angeles police stirs plenty of emotion. Maybe it's just that society focuses on the corrupt as opposed to the positive things done by public figures, but the arrogance of those in power never ceases to amaze me.
Dubbed as a true story, Changeling details the life of Christine Collins after her young son disappears when the single mother is called to work on a Saturday. Already under intense scrutiny, the LAPD "solves" the headline grabbing case after several months by attempting to substitute a similar looking boy for Collins' son. When the mother protests, threatening the positive media attention the LAPD was desperately trying to generate, Collins is abruptly locked away in a mental institution.
It might be too strong to suggest that this film "grabs you" right from the beginning, but there is definitely not much effort needed to get into the film. Knowing the basic premise of the movie may be the reason, but I found myself glued to the opening scenes with Collins and her son, Walter (played by Gattlin Griffith). Perhaps I was looking for clues to what I knew was coming, but whatever the reason, the scenes worked. The recreation of 1929 Los Angeles was also a cool aspect of the early part of the movie.
Jeffery Donovan stood out as J.J. Jones, the main symbol of corruption within the LAPD. I never quite buy that an actor brings out the emotion as opposed to the writer of the script; I'm sure it's the wannabee writer in me. But Jones certainly personified every little weasel with an ounce of power we've all had to tolerate in our lives. Unfortunately, Jones had actual power, and single-handedly had Collins institutionalized. From there, she learns that any female who becomes a nuisance to the police was declared unstable.
Jolie received plenty of acclaim for this role as I heard many had said she stole every scene she was in. I didn't really have a feeling one way or another on her acting, but I imagine not noticing the acting while being very intrigued by the plight of the character — as I was — is in fact complimenting the actress. Her fight against "the system" came through in a powerful way, and I'm sure women of today and other minorities relate to battling against the patronizing attitudes that were perfectly acceptable in the era in which the film took place.
John Malkovich was a tad creepy as Reverend Gustav Briegle, the LAPD's harshest critic who becomes an advocate for Collins. However, his role in aiding Jolie's character helps him win over the audience.
A minor character that really stood out was Sanford Clark played by Eddie Alderson. The young actor was very good as the kid who ultimately reveals how Walter disappears, and may have played the best part in the movie. He walked the line between tough kid who had to do whatever was necessary to survive and a vulnerable young teen or pre-teen very well.
Despite running for more than two hours, the film never really felt long. It does a good job of following the story of Collins, the case that ultimately involves a number of children and includes some brutal moments, and the corrupt police force.
Changeling is definitely worth watching.