JASON BUTLER HARNER
TRAILERS & CLIPS
The brilliant Clint Eastwood adds to his already impressive body of directorial accomplishments with Changeling, a sordid tale of abuses of power; a gripping mystery; and an astute historical period piece which documents several coinciding events which changed the landscape of Prohibition era Los Angeles.
Set in the late 1920s, Changeling stars Angelina Jolie as real life figure Christine Collins, a single mother who worked as a switch board supervisor while raising her 9 year old son, Walter.
After an unexpected Saturday shift, Christine returns home to find Walter has gone missing. 5 months later, the LAPD announce they have found him, and stage a massive press conference in order to generate good press for the embattled police department, which has fought allegations of corruption and brutality.
Their biggest critic at the time was Presbyterian minister, community activist, and lone ally to Christine, Rev. Gustav Briegleb, played here by the always solid and authoritative John Malkovich.
When Christine states with the upmost clarity that the boy placed in front of her is not her son, it is an allegation met with indifference by the LAPD’s Juvenile division Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), who urges Christine to take the boy on a “trial basis”. Christine agrees, only for her instinct to be proven right: the fraud sleeping in her sons bed is 4 inches shorter, and circumcised.
When Christine approaches Jones with her findings, he declares Christine to be deluded, is placed into custody, and thrown into a mental asylum. There she meets hooker Carol (a ballsy Amy Ryan, playing a role Jolie perfected in Girl, Interrupted), who lays down the golden rule: if you are a woman, and you piss off the cops, you will be placed in a straight jacket.
After all, what are women but fragile waifs, who must be crazy to exercise any sort of authority? Like Ron Burgundy from Anchorman said: “its science”.
If the deplorable behaviour by the LAPD does not irk the anger and frustration of the film viewers, perhaps the fact that Changeling was based on real events will do so. Later, the emergence of a child killer named Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner) further brings to light the despicable behaviour of the LAPD, save for one good cop (Michael Kelly), who against his superior’s orders, investigates a lead to disarming results.
Eastwood – who also composes – provides haunting melodies, which coupled with Tom Stern’s slightly grey tinted photography, brings gloom to sunny 1920 Los Angeles.
Yet the real draw here is Angelina Jolie. Not only does she dazzle visually with her unique features heightened with pale complexion and red lipstick, but Jolie provides an emotionally breathtaking performance. View the scene where she confronts the imposter posing as her son; tremble at her throaty scream; feel the pain and anguish. She evokes every parent’s worst nightmare, and provides a career defining performance while doing so.