CHANGELING (***1/2) - Starring Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, Colm Feore, Geoff Pierson, Amy Ryan and Denis O'Hare.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
This movie makes the old-fashioned new again. We have an old-fashioned mystery that spins and spirals into different genres, as the unfolding of the story takes us in new directions.
Except that it's based on a true story. So if you don't already know the events surrounding this tale, I recommend seeing this first and then doing your research. I didn't know, and I was enthralled.
Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single mother in Los Angeles 1928. One day when she comes home from work, her son is missing. The LAPD won't help in the first 24 hours, but five months later, they claim to have found him in Illinois. Trouble is, the boy is not her son. He claims he is, the police claim he is, and when she continues to protest, the sneering detective has her thrown into an insane asylum.
So we go down a tumultuous road that is reminiscent of One Flew Over a Cuckoo's Nest, but also has elements of Chinatown and Norma Rae. Jolie, for her part, is great in a role that doesn't have too many notes beyond steely determination. She must say the phrase "my son" over 200 times. Her plight is scary; there is more intensity in the asylum than in 95% of horror films. What I love about Eastwood is his ability to move from genre to genre and master it. I think of how diverse and yet how competant movies like Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima and this are. (Although now that I think about it, I wonder if he could pull off a comedy.)
There's a melodrama to it I liked. It follows the 1970's tradition of Act One being setup, Act Two being injustice, and Act Three will either be triumph or destruction. And false endings aside, it squeezed a tear out of me, which movies very rarely do.
And the actual true story could spawn a slew of movies from different angles.