Monday, November 3, 2008
Changeling Tells The Story Within The Story
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Five Scoops of Bosco
Reviewed by Allen Bacon
Editor, The Daily Bosco
Sometimes films based on true stories can be much more compelling than fiction. That is as long as it is in the hands of a great writer, director, and acting troupe. This is the case with Clint Eastwood's latest directing effort The Changeling.
Back dropped against the most interesting and detailed period set of 1920's Los Angeles that you will ever see, The Changeling tells a story behind the story of one of the most horrific crimes in American history, the Wineville murders, where up to 20 young boys were kidnapped and brutally executed over a period of two years in Southern California.
The film is the story of Christine Collins (Angeline Jolie) whose young son Walter goes missing. Months go by, and the Los Angeles Police Department, desperate for good publicity because of a rash of bad press, say they have found her son and stage a reunion for the press at LA's Union Station. The only problem is...it's not her son. What ensues is a true tale of police corruption, the attempt to disempower women, and people fighting against almost impossible odds.
You could not have had a better person direct this film. Ron Howard was originally slated to direct but had a full schedule with the upcoming DaVinci Code sequel and Frost/Nixon . Because Universal wanted to fast track the project, Howard, taking on the producer role, chose Clint Eastwood.
Eastwood has delved into crime dramas involving children before in the wonderful Mystic River. He is also old enough to remember what it was like growing up around that time so he brings that to his film. His attention to detail is remarkable. You are transported into late 20's Los Angeles like no other movie down to the Red cars and the Telephone switchboard room where Christine Collins (Jolie) works.
Eastwood's directing style is much like Woody Allen's in the sense that he gives very little verbal direction...he trusts his actors...and he likes to keep production costs to a minimum, minimizing extra takes so you get a more raw performance...truer to life. All of that is evident in Changeling.
That directing sense along with a great script from J. Michael Stracysnski (Babylon 5) make the film. Stracysnski is a journalist at heart. He reportedly got wind of this story from a person at the LA County Records Office who was getting ready to burn the archives of the records of this case. He wrote the first draft of the script in twelve days. And he follows the rules of journalism... he writes it "tight, right, and bright". He avoids making the murders the focus of the film which would be so easy to do. He instead directs your attention to the more important story and that is of the cover-up of the powerful LAPD in this case and how common people try to fight the abuse of power against all odds weaving in actual dialogue from records and news articles of the time. Stracysnski should win an Oscar for his screenplay.
The thing that makes this film so compelling, even if it is a true story, is that it's not a widely known story...most individuals really don't know how it's going to end up which grabs your attention to the very end.
It would be really easy to focus on the wonderful performances of Angeline Jolie and John Malkovich who plays the Reverand Brieglab and they will certainly garner Oscar attention. But you will be most mesmerized by the performances of two of the supporting actors....namely Jason Butler Harner as the serial killer Gordon Northcott and his accomplish, his nephew played by Eddie Alderson.
The Changeling is a wonderful film that keeps you involved the whole distance of the film whether it's the story telling, the great sets and costumes, the acting, or the wonderful directing.
The Bosco Rating System is based on a score of one to five with five being best.