Rush to judge, rush to judge! The worst thing about blogging is seeing an event with tons of other writers and knowing you have to spit out something quick or else they will first and get the glory. We'd much rather sit with our thoughts on Clint Eastwood's "Changeling," but alas, such is the blogging world.
Maybe it's the time period of this piece (and it probably it is), the late 1920s — a different world as far as we're concerned — but there were a lot of things about Eastwood's "Changeling" that were hard to buy. While it's another stoic drama, with its graceful beats, measured tones and an Oscar-deserving performance by Angelina Jolie, "Changeling," is also a little endlessly long, far-fetched and replete with the predictable classic Hollywood filmmaking notes that Oscar love.
Now there's not necessarily anything wrong with that, but we've seen it so many goddamn times and especially from Eastwood himself. It gets a little telegraphed from afar.
The far-fetched facts: Of course they're all based on true events which apparently, clung closely to the reality of the situation — a mother loses her child and then the boy is discovered months later, but she doesn't believe its him — but would a mother, separated from her child for five months and then reunited really take home a child she knew instantly wasn't her own?
In fact, in reality, Christine Collins did actually do this in 1928, taking home a child that wasn't hers because the conniving police convinced her that she was too emotional and disoriented to reason and recognize her son. They also use the excuse that he's been gone five months and has surely changed both physically and emotionally from the experience of being separated from his mother. People may have really been this naive and gullible back then, but today? C'mon!
These sort of unbelievable reactions to major plot points in the film continually left us aggravated. Surely the filmmakers and writers were trying to instill outrage in the injustice and far-fetched excuses for the boy's disappearance (a quack doctor tries to reason that the boy has shrunk three inches because of the "trauma" he's been through; She counters; wait, he's been circumcised! And the doc insists the person that must have captured him probably did deviant things to him. It's just completely unbelievable and outrageous in its own right).
Based on actual newspaper reports of the time, sure maybe it happened, but man, today it's really hard to swallow. Some of it just feels disingenuous.
Perhaps its a filmmaking/story shortcoming that Jolie's character only tries to question the boy (who vehemently claims he is her son) of why he's posing as her son only a few times and then begrudgingly accepts him because he has "nowhere to go," but again, this felt a little unrealistic.
Asked during the Q&A how he avoided sensationalizing or melodramatizing the story, Eastwood admitted that the "melodrama was built into the situation," which probably is why some of it did feel somewhat histrionic at times.
In attempts to portray the injustices of L.A., the film becomes aggravating (the increasing difficulties are relentless and bordering on improbably). And in the effort to reveal mystery of what happened to her son later on in the picture, the film just becomes excessively long and a little exhausting. That's not to say there aren't any profound and powerful scenes. There's one in particular in the end which is just Jolie's reaction to a major discovery in the story that's show-stopping emotionally. But overall? Hmm... not really sticking with us on any major level.