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Changeling (2008)

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Reviews are coming in for Changeling, the new film from Clint Eastwood.

Or is it called The Exchange? Apparently there's some confusion over which name Eastwood will stick with.

Here's the Cinematical review.

John Malkovich plays a Presbyterian minister? Cool.

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I saw the (new?) trailer on the big screen last night and was surprised by how emotionally engaged I got. I fear the film as a whole could be pretty devastating. I wonder how I would have reacted if I had seen the film a few years ago, BEFORE I had kids.

In the meantime, Kyle Smith isn't impressed:

Clint Eastwood spent the 60s and 70s making westerns, military movies and cop movies. Now he

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And now David Poland invokes the L-word:

It would be hard to be more surprised and sad about how terrible Changeling is.

I mean... Lifetime... at best.

I am a big, big Eastwood fan. But when he misses, man oh man oh man...

Brutal.

In related news, I just got a pass to this, today.

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I've noticed that about 80% of the time, I disagree with David Poland so much that I tense up and and shake. So that means there's about an 80% chance I'll like this movie? You're better with numbers than I am, Peter....

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I just find it interesting that the reviews coming out of Cannes five months ago seemed to be pretty good, but over the last few weeks, the reviews coming out of New York and elsewhere seem to be rather negative -- and from all over the cultural-political map.

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BethR   

Well, maybe it is a terrible movie. I haven't seen it yet. And I don't know if David Poland, Karina Longworth, and Kyle Smith are a representative sample of "all over the cultural-political map." OTOH, in the spirit of the supposed purpose of this board, "Arts and Faith," I note Becky Garrison's comments on God's Politics, who gives some thought to the film's portrayal of crusading pastor Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich). At least, it would seem here's one film in which the clergyman is not flat out corrupt, insane, the villain, or stupid.

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techne   
Well, maybe it is a terrible movie. I haven't seen it yet. And I don't know if David Poland, Karina Longworth, and Kyle Smith are a representative sample of "all over the cultural-political map." OTOH, in the spirit of the supposed purpose of this board, "Arts and Faith," I note Becky Garrison's comments on God's Politics, who gives some thought to the film's portrayal of crusading pastor Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich). At least, it would seem here's one film in which the clergyman is not flat out corrupt, insane, the villain, or stupid.

however, the clergyman is being played by the malkovich who, with his odd/ unique/ affected vocal delivery, i find generally kind of creepy or smarmy (and don't get me wrong, i generally enjoy him in his various roles, whether in of mice and men, dangerous liaisons, being john malkovich or even con air) - neither of which, i would think, would really play well for the character...then again, i haven't seen the movie. :unsure:

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Yikes. Now Christopher Orr calls it "may be the worst movie of the year":

This is, to put it mildly, a fantastical story, the kind of dark, absurdist allegory that we might have expected to ooze from the pen of Kafka. It is also, remarkably, a true (or at least trueish) story, as the film announces in its opening moments. But it is not enough to declare such improbable material historically accurate and leave it at that. It is Eastwood's burden to make it
feel
true, to overcome our skepticism at its innate outlandishness, and in this, Changeling is a singular failure. Scene after scene, twist after twist--and this is a film of many twists--rings false. I have been a fan (and defender) of Eastwood for as long as I can remember, but Changeling is a genuine stinker.

[ snip ]

By the time it's over, Changeling has proven itself not merely a contender for the worst film of the year, but a contender for the worst domestic tragedy, the worst conspiracy thriller, the worst serial killer flick, and the worst courtroom drama. It is that rare movie which, long after you think it's exhausted the possibilities, keeps discovering new ways to fail.

You mean it might be worse than Miracle at St. Anna? Yowzah.

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Yikes. Now Christopher Orr calls it "may be the worst movie of the year": This is, to put it mildly, a fantastical story, the kind of dark, absurdist allegory that we might have expected to ooze from the pen of Kafka.

He almost sold me on the movie right there...

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Just came back from it. While I wouldn't say it's the year's strongest film, it's very good at what it is. Yes, it could have been a TV movie, but it's not: It's sumptuously filmed, very well performed, and ... deeply Christian.

There, I said it. I think this is one of the most potent treatments of certain elements of our faith that I can remember seeing -- a love that pursues at all costs, injustice fought,

a man who lays down his life for a friend

, talk of family reunion both here and in the hereafter, and the final word of the movie, which captures the Christian experience.

Is the movie foremost a religious parable? No, but it's all the better for that. It's sumptuously filmed by Tom Stern, who also shot Things We Lost in the Fire and some of Eastwood's more recent films. I did think it had a possible end point about 30 minutes before the conclusion, but I didn't mind those extra 30 minutes, which bring closure to the courtroom drama and include a payoff in the film's closing moments that was tremendously powerful for me, although I'm not sure everyone will share that experience.

One thing that did not blow me away was the much discussed Angelina Jolie performance. She's fine; don't get me wrong. I didn't think she was better than "good," however, nor do I think she needed to be for the film to succeed.

This one definitely got to me.

EDIT: BTW, Anne Thompson saw the film again recently and blogged about her continued positive response to it. As I've mentioned before, she's a Christian. I like to add that little tidbit whenever I agree with her. :)

Edited by Christian

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Really? (About Anne Thompson, I mean.) I did not know that. Huh.

I saw the film tonight and thought it was "okay", and I'm surprised to see just HOW negative the reaction has been in some quarters, especially in the last few weeks. Yes, the movie had people laughing at certain points that were actually pretty serious, but only in the first half-hour or so, when the sheer absurdity of what Jolie's character is about to go through is still just sinking in.

FWIW, towards the end of the film I was beginning to get a The Wrong Man vibe. I.e., I was beginning to be reminded of Hitchcock's movie, also based on a true story, in which someone is unjustly accused of something and punished and traumatized for it, and then the REAL culprit is found ... or so we assume, but there remains some ambiguity over whether this second person is any "guiltier" than the first person. (The analogy isn't exact, since no one believes that Jolie's character has committed a crime, but if you see both films, you'll know what I mean.)

I am dying to see the bonus features on the DVD, because I hope one of them will be devoted to the film's recreation of the urban landscapes of the past. Most of the film takes place in Los Angeles in 1928, but there is an establishing shot of Vancouver (dated September 20, 1928) that I'd like to know more about (and at least one of the special-effects companies listed in the end credits is based in Vancouver, so who knows? maybe they got to do that shot, and maybe they knew how to keep it "real").

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Really? (About Anne Thompson, I mean.) I did not know that. Huh.

Yes, she wrote "I am a Christian" once on one of her blog posts, back when she was still with the Hollywood Reporter, IIRC. I think she made the comment in reference to her view of "Babel," or another film written by Guillermo Arriaga. I flagged the comment here at A&F, but doubt I could find it quickly enough to justify the effort. You'll just have to take my word for it. :)

So, Peter, what did you think of Eastwood's treatment of faith in this movie? I felt, I guess, a false pride that the socially conscious hero was a Presbyterian minister. My theology is such that I think a pastor has no place railing against police corruption from the pulpit -- if he wants to do so as a private citizen, that's fine, but to throw his weight around as a pastor bothers me. Still, I was heartened to see a Protestant, and Presbyterian no less, played as moral hero in the film.

Thinking of how Eastwood has handled faith in some of his recent films, it's always been steeped in Catholicism -- ideas of guilt and redemption, or lack thereof. And penance of a sort. Here we listen as a criminal discusses not wanting to go to hell, and as others wish that upon him, but what does it say that the most fervently religious dialogue in the film comes from the mouth of someone

who's probably insane

? I don't think that's the sum of the matter; it's a jaded take. There are those other ideas mentioned in my previous post that drive the plot, and there's the minister.

Part of what has me dwelling on this is that I saw the Grand Torino preview before Changeling, and again, there's Eastwood giving a man of the cloth a hard time, tossing out supposedly (to him) unanswerable questions and conundrums. Eastwood seems preoccupied with faith questions, but quick to play the guy who challenges religious authority figures. That aspect is largely missing in Changeling, and I thought the movie was better for it.

Edited by Christian

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Christian wrote:

: So, Peter, what did you think of Eastwood's treatment of faith in this movie? I felt, I guess, a false pride that the socially conscious hero was a Presbyterian minister. My theology is such that I think a pastor has no place railing against police corruption from the pulpit -- if he wants to do so as a private citizen, that's fine, but to throw his weight around as a pastor bothers me.

Yeah. It irked me a little when he began one of his radio broadcasts by saying "I'm bringing you the word of God" and then he went STRAIGHT into talking about police corruption etc. It didn't help that we basically never see him preach any sort of religious message. The character, as a character within the movie, exists entirely as a social activist, who happens to have a patina of moral legitimacy thanks to his religious affiliation.

Still, a hero is better than a villain, and all that.

: Here we listen as a criminal discusses not wanting to go to hell, and as others wish that upon him, but what does it say that the most fervently religious dialogue in the film comes from the mouth of someone

who's probably insane

?

Yeah. And Jolie's response to him, in one key scene, is kind of interesting too, in that regard. Do you think she ever

learns to forgive him

, as arguably she should?

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And Jolie's response to him, in one key scene, is kind of interesting too, in that regard. Do you think she ever

learns to forgive him

, as arguably she should?

Good question. She does seem

to be at peace at the end of the film

, and that last line resonated for me. But I think that had a lot to do with

the other family's outcome with

their son than it did with repentance or a change of heart on her part.

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In what I can only guess is a technical glitch, Roger Ebert's review of this film makes a reference to John Wayne Gacy, and the words "John Wayne" are hyperlinked to other articles about the actor on the Roger Ebert site.

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Marcia (female "geezer") is the one who's more on the money this time. It does try to tell too many stories. And (not really a spoiler because it's not in the movie, but I'll black it out just in case)

the thought of the killer living with his mother who took part in the killings

would have really been an interesting contrast.

I liked Jolie's and Jeffrey Donovan's performances. Malkovich's not so much. But it never seemed ready to end -- or perhaps it kept seeming ready to end and never did. There are 3 or 4 places where you could have run credits if you wanted to. The last 15 minutes or so are very anticlimactic, which really knocks down any power the film might have had.

Edited by Darrel Manson

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I didn't mind the anticlimactic bits so much, myself. Life is like that. It almost reminded me of Zodiac, though Eastwood's film as a whole was definitely not made with Fincher's skill or thematic intrigue.

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Jonathan Rosenbaum:

Far be it for me to invent wimpy liberal alibis for police corruption in 1928 Los Angeles, punitive electroshock, a pederast serial killer, and cosmic injustice in general, but the main thing wrong with Clint Eastwood

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There may be some :spoilers: here

The view of evil is where I finally came up with something to say in my review. I see it as a comparison of Northcott (the serial killer) and Capt. Jones et al. in the corrupt police system. Northcott is portrayed as having some sort of mental defect which does not excuse him, but does mitigate at some level. He knows he has done terrible things and fears judgment and Hell. You almost have sympathy for him as he mounts the scaffold. The police and hospital folk on the other hand are uncaring bastards who seek their own gain without regard for damage it may cause others. There is not the hint of remorse or repentance. Which evil is deeper?

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Darrel Manson wrote:

: The police and hospital folk on the other hand are uncaring bastards who seek their own gain without regard for damage it may cause others. There is not the hint of remorse or repentance.

But isn't that part of Rosenbaum's (and others') criticism of the film? That they have not even a "hint" of redeeming qualities? That they are portrayed in such starkly black-and-white terms?

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