If you were to go to a concert, full symphony orchestra, and you sit down ready if nothing else to be carried away for the next hour or two into the beauty of another world: crescendos, melodies and variations then you realize about 30 minutes in that all you’re going to hear for the next hour and a half is a single trumpet player bleeting the same note over and over again, I imagine you’d be a bit underwhelmed and frustrated. Great music, like a great movie has to have ups and downs. Even if they’re minor and subtle.
In Clint Eastwood’s new drama The Changeling everything plays at pretty much the same note from beginning to end. The movie is so detached from itself that there are no emotional ups and downs. Angelina Jolie, while suitable, hits that same reoccurring note as well, and the music lingers never adjusting to suit the events of the film. I don’t need to have my head beaten by a hammer, but it could be that Eastwood’s hands off style of directing is finally starting to show that perhaps he needs to be a little more hands on when considering the plotting of the story.
Much like his two recent war films Letters from Iwo Jima and that other one things happen. Interesting things, to interesting people, but then everything is so lifeless that you can’t connect. You watch The Changeling and get the feeling that he didn’t feel one way or the other about what was happening. That as an artist he’s not so much hands off, but guarded. That’s great if we were watching a documentary about the events that occurred, but we’re not.
The one thing that would have helped this movie would have been another pass or two at the script with Mr. Eastwood’s years of experience behind it. John Malkovich as the Priest that wants to take down the LAPD is used merely as a device to send Jolie’s wounded mother in the right direction. When I heard Malkovich was making another movie with Eastwood, I was thrilled…which makes this let down that much more potent.
Also, focus it, let it be about the mother that has lost a son. Instead Jolie’s character turns out to be Forrest Gump falling into too many situations and fixing all of them in the end. Even the bittersweet final few moments seemed guarded and tacked on, not even allowing us the opportunity to feel that mix of tragedy and hope. You walk out feeling frustrated and tired simply because you feel nothing. This is meladrama at it’s cleanest and most refined. Let a character cry here, shout for her son there, and be generally oppressed and I guess you automatically have a good movie…I don’t buy it!
I think now most great action heroes have shouted the words “Give me my son” or some variation… Mel Gibson in Ransom, Harrison Ford in Airforce One, Dennis Quaid in Switchback, and now Angelina Jolie gets to add her name to the cliche of modern cliches…everyone wants their son! Makes for a good trailer quote.