An Amateure “True Review” of Changeling

Changeling is a 2008 American drama film directed by Clint Eastwood. Based on real life events in 1928 Los Angeles, the film stars Angelina Jolie as a woman who is reunited with her missing son—only to realize he is an impostor.

(Thank you Wikipedia.)

Until yesterday, that’s about all I knew and that was from the many television commercials I saw for this movie when it came out in theaters. I picked up the DVD at the grocery store’s Blockbuster machine for a buck yesterday.

This morning I popped onto A True Review to see if anyone there had done a review of this film. They’ve not. I thought about trying my hand at their style of review, but my film knowledge is pretty shallow. They review movies based on 5 points of evaluation. I’ll give it a go, with apologies to my friends at A True Review. I’m a hack.

1. Directing – Clint Eastwood is a great visual storyteller. Better than one might imaging from the guy famous as an actor for such lines as “Go ahead. Make my day.”  Maybe it’s that Hemmingway-ish straight forward way of telling a story that works visually in this film. I liked camera angles (but isn’t that more for the next category?). This is by no means a Sunday School story — the content is disturbing and should be. The language used is not for children’s ears and a few of the visual scenes are horrid. I appreciate that the use of powerful language and violence was not showy or cheap.

2. Cinematography\Editing – What do I know?  My evaluation of cinematography/editing  is like most people’s evaluation of paintings hanging in art galleries all over the world. I know what I like. I liked the use of imagery. I liked the pace of this film. I liked camera angles — but I said that already. I didn’t see any glaring mistakes in editing — you know, the ones where people are wearing a hat and then not and then wearing it again. The pieces flowed together in a way that made it easy to keep track of the movement of the story.

3. Acting – Pretty much this is all Angelina Jolie. Everyone else was fine. The crazy-man murderer was convincingly nuts. Other characters played their part well in that the didn’t get in the way of Jolie. I found myself thinking numerous times…she’s really quite good. Good at subtle. I’m not sure there’s a more convincing actress around when it comes to smart, strong, determined woman. I got the sense that she’s like a mother panther — beautiful, gentle, graceful, caring of her cub…and powerful. She plays the role like that — almost stealth, but totally present.

4. Plot – This is based on a true story. I read a summary of the history this film depicts and it’s obvious that they took poetic license. I’m okay with that as long as we know. I’m especially okay with it because the story they tell in the movie holds together better than real life. There were elements of the plot which were predictable and I think it was intentionally so. There are some really disturbing things told in this movie. The predictability of parts of the film give the viewer something to hold on to when the rest of it is so out of control. (Should I give credit to the director for this? Probably. See, this is why I don’t write reviews. I don’t know who should get credit for what.)

5. Redemptive Value – The bag guys are brought to justice. More so in this movie than in real life. Thank you Clint Eastwood.  I liked the movie version of that part of the story. Some of the good guys who were unjustly treated are redeemed by the heroic acts of a few characters (including a great lawyer who works on his own dime for the cause of justice). Jolie’s character experiences great loss, but does not give up hope. As a single working mom in the early 20th Century, she earns a rather extraordinary respect from many around her.

Do I recommend this movie?  Yes. For some. Not for everyone. Rarely is there a movie I’d recommend for everyone, though. It’s not a date night movie or one for the whole family (unless your kids are older — the story could be a spring board for some great conversation about the role that power plays in the battle between justice and injustice).

Okay, I’m going to stick with my day job and my regular blog. I’m not cut out for this review-writing stuff. Still, the format helped me think about what I think about this movie.

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