This is one of those movies I foolishly jumped into--I decided I wanted to see it after simply catching the tail-end of a muted trailer for the movie. However, let me say, up front, that unlike Scarface, this movie did not let me down.
Quite the contrary.
Changeling is based on a true story of L.A. crime in 1928. The story sort of ends in 1935, but you'd have to watch the movie to understand why. I'll agree with IMDb that the movie starts out a bit slow, but for a movie like this, it kind of has to. Angelina Jolie does a brilliant job of portraying Christine Collins, a single mom whose son disappears one Saturday while she is at work. Her acting, in my opinion, appeared neither contrived nor reserved. She seemed quite natural in her role. All of the child actors in this film were very believable in their balance between childlike actions and grown-up responsibilities (many of them were forced to react to situations totally inappropriate for anyone, especially young children). Jason Butler Harner (an actor I've never heard of) was freakishly talented at playing a delusional psychopath, and John Malkovich was stunning as Rev. Gustav Briegleb, a minister seeking to bring the truth of the LAPD's corruption to the public.
I highly recommend this movie; however, if you are the type of person who allows films to make you emotional, then come prepared with a box of Kleenex or two. I didn't cry during the movie, but there were a couple of times I came close (interesting side-note: I've only cried at one movie, and yes, John Malkovich was in it... Of Mice and Men). There were also moments in Changeling when I desperately wanted to give certain characters a standing ovation. Yes, the movie will pull at your heartstrings and manipulate you to a certain extent, but remember, this was based on a true story. Had it been a fictional movie, I would have said that never in a million years would this plot be possible. I was shocked and appalled that such crime actually took place in human history. There are some sickening scenes near the end of the movie, so make sure you've finished your popcorn early. You might also find yourself losing faith in humanity after watching Changeling, but trust me, the movie is well worth it.
One other note: I am by no means a historian, but with what little I do know of the late 1920s and early to mid-1930s, I found the costumes and dialogue to be very realistic. If you go see this movie, I think you'll agree with me that, though we don't have much background on most of the characters, you'll become attached to them anyway and feel like you know them by the end of the movie.
No, Changeling is not exactly a feel-good movie, but it's not a total downer either. It's a great mix of genres: drama, mystery/crime, political, horror (arguably), and even a little romance at the end. I absolutely abhor sentimental movies, but this one was excellent. Clint Eastwood directed Changeling, and I was impressed that it was neither overly bloody and violent, nor overly dramatic and sappy. I think the cast and crew did Mrs. Collins' story justice with this one. Go out and see it for yourself--let me know what you think.
1 day ago