Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie, is a story so horrifically twisted, that it had to be true.? If a screenwriter invented it, viewers would reject it as too implausible.?
In March 1928, Christine Collins, a single mother in Los Angeles comes home from work to find that her nine-year-old son, whom she had left at the house alone that morning, is missing.? She calls the police, who as a policy do not investigate missing children complaints for 24 hours because, the officer tells her, the little tykes usually show up.? But this one doesn't.?
Five months later, amid much fanfare and press attention, the police unite Christine with a boy.? Only it's not her son.? Christine refuses to tow the police line and insists that they find her boy.?
The corrupt and self-serving cops ignore her, intimidate her and eventually have her incarcerated in a mental hospital.? But Christine doesn't give up the fight or the search for her son.? Her crusade eventually leads to wide-ranging reforms in the LAPD.
This is a remarkable story, which intriguingly, has not translated into a remarkable film.?Changeling vacillates between being fiercely dramatic and strangely inert.? So, there are long stretches in which you are frantically involved and equally long stretches, which don't move you at all.?
The plotting is uneven but the fatal flaw is the film's central character Christine, played by Angelina Jolie.?Clint Eastwood is known as an actor's director.? Sean Penn's Oscar-winning performance in Mystic River seared into your soul as did Hillary Swank in Million Dollar Baby, which also won her an Oscar.
Here Jolie strives hard but she just doesn't hit the right notes.?The character is flatly written and she plays it with such a heavy-handed intensity that it becomes both showy and opaque.? Even though Christine dominates the film, we hardly get any sense of her.?
Her difficult journey from an anguished mother to a steely crusader doesn't move or inspire us as keenly it should.? Eventually then, Changeling is a bumpy ride.? I recommend that you wait for the DVD.