Thursday, 8 January 2009

REVIEW: The Changeling

This was the first step of my 2009 Oscar campaign, whereby I am attempting to see every Oscar-nominated film solely so I can legitimately slag off the Oscars when my favourites don't win. Obviously, the nominations aren't published until January 22nd but there's no way a Clint Eastwood-directed film won't make it through the nominations.

Anyway, The Changeling was praised by every film critic I could find with five stars all-round. However, I was initially cynical of this movie, as it has all the typical signs of Oscar-baiting: true story, depressing, classically-shot, Hollywood A-lister in the starring role, Clint Eastwood.

Nevertheless, it was pretty incredible. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because I usually avoid the 'serious drama' genre. But it has a good story to tell and I didn't get bored at any point.

I expected a standard story of a mother's quest for justice but the film is actually more of a bitter commentary on the corruption of the LAPD in 1920s America and the horrendous treatment of mental health patients. You will find more than a few scenes reminiscent of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and it is very well done.

And on top of that, you get a whole second narrative strand about the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders which tells the story of the psychopathic Gordon Northcott who kidnapped, tortured and murdered several children, possibly including the missing son of Angelina Jolie's character.

Aside from Jolie and Malkovich's cop-hating Priest (both awesome), the cast is relatively unknown which certainly helps the true-story feel of the movie. Everybody is great in their roles and Jason Butler Harner is unnervingly watchable as Hutchins every step of the way. The film is also not as depressing as I first suspected with the bad guys getting their comeuppance and the final note of the film is one of hope.

Fact: interestingly, screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski claims that 95% of the film's dialogue came directly from articles, testimony, transcripts and correspondence from the period.

Obviously, the Academy's attention will be on Angelina as Best Actress and Eastwood as Best Director (I wouldn't bet against Best Film either). But personally, I'd like to see some Best Supporting Actor recognition for Malkovich and Harner.

A good start to Oscar season.

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