Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, Colm Feore
Director: Clint Eastwood
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Clint Eastwood directs Oscar® winner Angelina Jolie and Oscar® nominee John Malkovich in a riveting and unforgettable true story. Los Angeles, 1928. When single mother Christine Collins (Jolie) leaves for work, her son ... more »
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A Mother Knows
Chris Pandolfi | Los Angeles, CA | 10/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Clint Eastwood's "Changeling" is not easy to watch, but I implore you to give it a try. This is filmmaking at its finest. It's all at once heartbreaking, infuriating, touching, empowering, and immensely compelling, which is to say that it taps into core human emotions without being manipulative. It tells a story so absorbing, it's as if the movie is happening to us instead of just passing before our eyes. This is appropriate given the fact that it's a true story and not merely based on a true story; screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski relied on actual articles, transcripts, and testimonies to document the story of Los Angeles native Christine Collins, whose nine-year-old son, Walter, disappeared in March of 1928. Five months later, the LAPD returned a boy Collins knew was not her son. Because the police refused to admit that a mistake was made, they deemed Collins an unfit mother and subsequently had her committed to a mental institution. But she wouldn't be silenced, and with the help of some key figures, she took on one of the most shameful cases of police corruption in Los Angeles history.
Angelina Jolie gives yet another wonderful performance as Collins, an honest, caring woman who was clearly striving for independence in a male-dominated society. She works diligently as the supervisor for a telephone company, so much so that she's offered a managerial position. As a single mother, she's firm yet nurturing, and she's upfront with her son (Gattlin Griffith) about why his father left before he was born. After Walter's disappearance, and after the wrong boy is returned to her, she initially faces the LAPD on her own, which leaves her with little since it's a tyrannical system motivated by power, not justice. There's a pivotal scene in which Chief of Police James E. Davis (Colm Feore) makes the following announcement: "We will hold trial on gunmen in the streets of Los Angeles. I want them brought in dead, not alive, and I will reprimand any officer who shows the least bit of mercy on a criminal." This is immediately followed by a shot of officers executing a line of criminals in the middle of a dark street. An elimination of the competition. For a system this dishonest, a persistent woman like Collins is seen as nothing but a disruption.
Of all the authority figures in this film, Captain J.J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan) is by far the most deplorable. He's obstinate and domineering, bullying Collins into taking in an imposter child, who was found with a drifter in DeKalb, Illinois. Jones has the nerve to question Collins as a mother, claiming she was so happy her son was taken that she's now resorting to phony accusations. Her insistence that he carry on the investigation lands her in a dehumanizing psychiatric hospital, where numerous disruptive women are sent to endure constant medicating and cruel electroshock therapy. A kindly but broken prostitute (Amy Ryan) tells Collins that there's absolutely no winning with the doctors. If you smile too much, you're delusional. If you smile too little, you're depressed. If you're neutral, then you've lost touch with basic human emotions. All anyone can do is learn how to behave properly.
The only person on Collins' side is Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich), a Presbyterian minister and community activist who made it his life's work to expose the corruption of the LAPD during radio sermons. When Collins is committed, Briegleb takes it upon himself to publicize the disappearance of her son and rally the public to support her. This puts tremendous pressure on the LAPD, as does the recent discovery of a crime scene; buried beneath a chicken ranch in Wineville, California are human remains. A mechanic named Gordon Northcott (Jason Butler Harner) becomes the primary suspect in a string of murders. I don't want to reveal any more about this case, but I will make it a point to praise Harner for not playing Northcott as a fanatical stereotype.
Apparently, Straczynski inserted newspaper clippings into copies of his screenplay, just as a reminder to the actors that everything being depicted actually happened. "The story is just so bizarre," he said, "that you need something to remind you that I'm not making this stuff up." Indeed, a lot of what Collins goes through is so outrageous that it's just shy of being funny. She knows, for example, how tall Walter is, for she measured his rate of growth on a wall. The boy who was returned to her is three inches shorter than the last notch. Collins also notices that this boy has been circumcised; she knows for a fact that Walter has not been. A doctor sent by Captain Jones assures Collins that, after months of improper care and nutrition, children can actually shrink. As for the circumcision, well, she should never put it past a kidnapper to do something extreme.
But what about the LAPD? Should she put it past them to do something extreme, such as returning the wrong child and knowing about it? It's easy to watch this movie and feel just as emotionally drained as Collins; there are moments where I wanted to scream, others where I wanted to cry, and many where I didn't know how to feel. This is not a criticism. The success of a movie like "Changeling" depends on a strong emotional gamut that reflects what the audience thinks and feels. This is, without a doubt, one of the year's best films, a powerful human drama dedicated to the ideals of hope and perseverance."
Karen Franklin | El Cerrito, CA, USA | 11/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Changeling is a powerful film. It tells the forgotten story of a working-class woman who brought down the corrupt establishment of Los Angeles 80 years ago.
Angelina Jolie gives a strong, Oscar-worthy performance as Christine Collins, a single mother and one of the first female supervisors at the phone company who refuses to bow down to corrupt police when her son vanished without a trace in 1928.
Los Angeles on the brink of the Great Depression was an epitome of corruption. The police chief, James "Two Guns" Davis, had an officially sanctioned "gun squad" that terrorized opponents with impunity. When Collins' son Walter vanished, the L.A. police were embarrassed by their inability to find him. To squelch public criticism, they tried to convince Collins that a young drifter was her son. When Collins protested, police Captain J.J. Jones labeled her as histrionic and delusional and had her locked in a "psychopathic ward."
Luckily for Collins, her plight came to the attention of Gustav A. Briegleb, a Presbyterian minister and community organizer who regularly lambasted police corruption on his radio show. Briegleb helped Collins get a lawyer and tell her story. Although the movie does not mention it, Collins' case led to passage of a law that prohibited police from incarcerating people in psychiatric facilities absent due process.
Despite the compelling nature of Collins' story, it came close to being forgotten. The old records were about to be incinerated when a city worker telephoned screenwriter and former journalist J. Michael Straczynski and told him to come over and take a look. What Straczynski read that day was so compelling that he spent a year poring over city archives to reconstruct the case.
Straczynski has said that he wrote the script to honor Collins: A woman whose "simple question, `Where is my son?' brought down the entire L.A. city structure."
Changeling owes its aura of authenticity to Straczynski's meticulous research; verbatim quotes from the files and direct testimony from the public hearings are incorporated into the script.
The film's power also owes to its feminist message about a strong woman who refuses to be silenced by a corrupt establishment. The scenes from the public hospital's "psychopathic ward" provide a grim reminder of the horrors faced by women who were labeled as crazy for resisting male authority.
Clint Eastwood was a great choice of director to tell this story. The acting is uniformly excellent, the plot presses forward inexorably, and attention to detail is exhibited throughout. The location shots are masterful in transporting us back in time, as Collins (Jolie) hops on and off streetcars in a convincingly reconstructed 1920s Los Angeles.
Although the film closely parallels the actual history, viewers should be aware that Eastwood took some dramatic liberties, presumably to streamline the story and highlight its good-versus-evil message. We don't find out, for example, that the missing boy had a father who was serving time at Folsom Prison for robbery. Nor is the presentation of the infamous Wineville Chicken Coop murder case entirely accurate. Killer Gordon Stewart Northcott was indeed hanged at San Quentin, but the film does not mention that his mother was convicted of the Collins murder and spent 12 years in prison.
For those who are interested in additional background on that case, it is the topic of a just-published book by James Paul, Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott. Former San Quentin warden Clinton P. Duffy also wrote about Northcott in his memoirs. Another source of information is the film's website, changelingmovie.net, which has reproductions of some of the actual L.A. Times news articles on the case.
The kid is not my son!
Amanda Richards | Georgetown, Guyana | 03/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Christine Collins: The boy they brought back is not my son.
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):
1. A single mother's only son is missing
2. It takes five months for the Police to reunite the mother and the boy who said "I am the one"
3. But she knew that the kid was not her son
4. The Police Captain insisted: "Don't go Changeling. She'll love you just the way you are"
5. But she didn't
6. ... and she learned the hard way why the Police Force had such a bad reputation
7. They said she was crazy
8. But she never gave up, always hoping that her son had flown the coop.
Based on a true story, this heartbreaking movie may be difficult to watch, especially if you're a parent. A mother's greatest nightmare comes to life when her only child goes missing, and this unfortunately is just the beginning of a sordid tale of incompetence, stubbornness, malice, abuse of power, madness and murder.
Angelina Jolie more than earns her Oscar nomination as Christine Collins, the young mother at the center of this story, and good performances are also seen from John Malkovich as a fiery Presbyterian minister, Amy Ryan as a wronged woman, and Jeffrey Donovan as the Police Captain that you'll hate for a long time.
Recommended for fans of true crime stories, Angelina Jolie, and period movies that nail the sets and wardrobes.
Amanda Richards, March 15, 2009
Another Golden Feather In Clint Eastwood's Director-Producer
MUZIK4THAPEOPLE!! | Orlando, FL | 03/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is fantastic story-telling, well put together, all elements
in place and making perfect sense. Such have become the earmarks
of a Clint Eastwood film..his taste and touch is impeccable
as both a director and producer!
(Of course, his acting, when he is acting, is nothing
to sneeze at either!) Angelina Jolie did a wonderful job
as a woman in the late 1920's who endures an unimaginable
ordeal that must be seen to be believed!
There were some moments that had me on the end of my seat
and others that I almost couldn't bear, mainly the brutality
of the child murderer who is revealed later into the film!
Even though she is not reunited with her son, the story still
finds a way to end on a ray of hope.
This was definitely an oscar-worthy performance in a year
of many oscar-worthy performances!"