2008-11-14 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

'Changeling' - Mother Knows Best
By Robert Snyder

Never underestimate the power of a mother bear fighting for her cub. Director Clint Eastwood focuses on that raw elemental emotion and expands it to something more with his jazz age horror film, "Changeling."

Featuring a fine performance by Angelina Jolie, it tells the true story of single mother Christine Collins (Jolie), who returns home one day from her job at the Los Angeles telephone company to find her beloved 9-year-old son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith), gone.

Initially, the police pooh-pooh the distraught mother's complaint, but then, after intense press coverage, produce what they say is her child six months later. Christine doesn't buy the bluff, yet takes the boy home on a "trial basis." However, the ruse becomes ridiculous when she realizes the boy is three inches shorter than her child and is circumcised when the real Walter wasn't.

Charged up by an activist radio broadcasting minister, the Reverend Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), Chrisine makes a big media stink against the LAPD, which is rife with corruption. To silence her, she is thrown into a psych ward, where actress Jolie moves into her Oscar-winning "Girl Interrupted" mode with help from fellow rebellious inmate Carol Dexter (Amy Ryan).

Co-produced by Ron Howard, who made the parental nightmare, "Ransom," "Changeling" hints of many films before it: "Rosemary's Baby," "In Cold Blood," "L.A. Confidential," even Eastwood's "Mystic River," as well as others previously mentioned. The J. Michael Straczynski screenplay travels into deep dark realms seen in those movies, but stands on its own as an ode to women's rights.

The fact that the story is true makes the events as they unfold all the more powerful, which is why Eastwood's straightforward directing is completely appropriate.

Go see "Changeling." Prepare to be shocked, elated and enlightened.

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