Sunday, January 25, 2009


I’m always amazed at Angelina Jolie’s range as a film actress. It’s broader than most, or than her image certainly is. And it’s on full display in CHANGELING (why she got an Oscar nomination I’m sure).

I’m also always amazed at how beautiful (and glamorous) she often appears to be. Unfortunately, that too is on full display in CHANGELING.

Unfortunately, because it makes the character less believable, or her circumstances—which seem already unbelievable (a single working mother able to afford a big house (for the times) in a very nice neighborhood (with spare rooms etc.)).

I mean can you buy Angelina Jolie looking ravishingly gorgeous (as they said back then), more so than most movie stars of the time, not just single but almost monk like in her lifestyle, and the only interested party of the opposite sex seems to be her balding, not-so-dashing, kind of schlubby boss?

Not that CHANGELING (I keep wanting to add a “the” to the title, maybe because of the old English play by the same name that was much more gritty, or the also more gritty George C. Scott movie, which is the more likely reason they couldn’t use it) is bad, after all it’s directed by Clint Eastwood, and stars Jolie.

Though it happens rarely with Eastwood, there are times his speedy one-or-two-take approach to film directing leaves him with too few takes to choose from in the editing room so that some of his movies (especially ones he isn’t in that star big Hollywood actors whose technique might demand more attention than he gives them, like MYSTIC RIVER—was I the only one to see the way-too-many inconsistencies in the acting in that?) seem a little erratic.

Also, I prefer “based on a true story” to the “a true story” that CHANGELING opens with. Yes, it’s a “true story” in the sense that a real mother in L. A. In the 1920s had her little boy—who had disappeared—replaced with another one who claimed the spot and the police went along with him, in fact insisted on his being the original.

But given the bare outlines of this “true story” it raises all kinds of questions the movie (screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski) doesn’t even touch. It hews to the black and white simplicity of fable or action movie (with John Malkovich as a crusading minister, great when he’s angry but totally miscast when he’s supposed to be anything other than that).

Too bad, because Jolie does some fine acting at times that had me teary eyed with sympathy for her character’s plight. But there’s something missing, some deeper truth—and not enough heart, aside from mother love—that makes the film seem unreal, more dream like than “true” to life, even life lived almost a century ago.

But as a dream, starring the still lovely to watch Jolie, it’s not bad. Just don’t expect a great movie.

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