STARRING Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Michael Kelly, Jeffrey Donovan DIRECTED BY Clint Eastwood SCREENPLAY J. Michael Straczynski MPAA RATING Rated R RUNNING TIME 140 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Universal
Is Hollywood even allowed to have an awards season without Clint Eastwood around?
Proving once again that she does her best work in films that nobody ever sees, Angelina Jolie offers a strong performance in Eastwood's "Changeling," the story of a mother whose semi-idyllic life in 1920's Los Angeles is turned upside down when her 9-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), disappears. After a few weeks, Captain Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) appears at her doorstep with her "son" and a photo op for the L.A. police.
The problem? The boy isn't really her son, and the more she pushes against the police department the more they push back. A local minister, Rev. Briegleb (John Malkovich) takes up her cause and the battle is on.
Well, sort of.
The truth is that with "Changeling" Eastwood seems to fall into the same trap that his protege' Paul Haggis seems to find himself in...he just tries too damn hard. Perhaps he's simply gotten too used to all his films being praised, but "Changeling" constantly feels like it's trying hard to be an important film.
Unfortunately, it's not an important film. It's a diluted film, largely due to a sub-story line involving a serial killer and scenes involving Detective Ybarra (Michael Kelly) that don't do much more than distract from the goings on.
While Jolie and Malkovich are fine, the film's strongest performance belongs to Jason Butler Harner's incredibly creepy serial killer, a performance that could garner the film its only awards talk.
Actually, as is traditional for an Eastwood film, "Changeling" looks beautiful and its production values are quite sparkling. So, who knows? Maybe "Changeling" will pick up a nomination or two in the tech areas, as well.
The problem is that Eastwood has been so spot on with his recent films that one can't help but feel disappointed with a film that is merely "good."
That's it. "Changeling" doesn't suck. Not at all. It's just not a brilliant film. It's a good film that tries like heck to be brilliant but falls incredibly short.