If I were handing out starred ratings for Changling, I would have given it a solid four out of five for the majority of the movie. And then yanked back one of those stars after watching a satisfying ending happen about twenty minutes after the story should've been over. Thanks to Angelina Jolie and her impeccable performance, I'm not too upset about sitting through the bloated third act.
Jolie plays Christine Collins, a single mother living in 1928 Los Angeles. She works as a telephone operator supervisor, and she cares very deeply for her nine-year old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith). One day, after an unexpected long shift at work, Christine comes home to find Walter missing. She calls the police right away, and that is where her problems begin.
First off, unlike today, the police didn't start the search for her son immediately. They had to wait 24 hours. When little Walter doesn't show up, the police come, and the search is on. Five months pass, and Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan), the head of the juvenile department, shows up with great news. Walter has been found.
But the boy at the train station is not Walter. Captain Jones is appalled at the idea that this woman is turning down a found child, and he forces her to accept him. The police claim the search is over, and the rest of the movie becomes Christine's fight to uncover the injustice of the LAPD, prove her sanity, and above all, find her son.
There were many, many instances during the film that I was literally outraged at the police. Who would not believe that a mother wouldn't recognize her own son? But disbelieve they did, and the idea of this being based on a true story makes it all that much more aggravating.
What works in this movie, if you couldn't tell the title, is Angelina Jolie's portrayal of Christine Collins. Nearly every time she broke down crying, I felt like crying with her. The pain and anguish and frustration isn't subtle, and why would it be? Her fellow actors on screen, for the most part, did a great job, but she was definitely acting circles around most of them. I don't think I can blame this on the actors as much as the way the story was written.
This is a movie about a mother's struggle. There is police corruption, sexism, and monumental foul play, but at its core, the story is about this woman. The other characters are just icing, and I think that's what keeps this from being a five-star movie for me.
Don't get me wrong, Clint Eastwood directed a great movie. It's compelling and stark and all those gritty-type words you can use when describing Eastwood and his movies. Most of the movie had me glued to the screen--my mind reeling about the injustice and the mystery of it all-- but there was just too much detail and not enough development of supporting characters.
The last time Jolie won an Oscar, it was for playing a institutionalized girl. This time, she's going to be nominated for playing an institutionalized woman. I don't know if she'll win, but she definitely deserves the nod.