Changeling [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Universal Pictures
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (8th April 2009).
The Film

Whenever a film is supposed to be set in a time period other than the present-day of when it was made, you get little jibs and jabs about when the film is taking place. Of course you have the infamous ‘Ronald Reagan? The Actor?’ from “Back to the Future” (1985) or jabs at the Cubs winning the World Series in the super futuristic 2015 future of “Back to the Future: Part II” (1989), but even the serious period dramas take this lip service to heart as a way of trying to solidify their time period. Whether it’s referring to pop culture or having to match the period of the day, establishing the authenticity or scene of the film is critical, but at the same time becomes more and more burdensome the more serious the film tries to get. With Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort “Changeling” (2008) they took the burden of creating the time period very seriously from costumes to setting, but it comes off as so artificially constructed it just becomes all the more transparent as the Angelina Jolie Oscar-vehicle that it appears to be.

Set in 1928 Los Angeles, the film takes a deeper look at patriarchy, motherhood and police corruption as Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a single mother who works as a supervisor at the phone company to support herself and her nine year-old son Walter (Gattlin Griffith), until one day he disappears while she gets called in to work. Collins begins a search for her son putting out calls to the police and newspapers, until a few months later the L.A.P.D. claims to have found Christine’s son, yet upon their reunion it becomes apparent that the finding was nothing more than a fraud to give the police department some good publicity in the midst of public criticism over their brutality and corruption. While the police insist that Walter (Devon Conti) is in fact her son, Christine insists that he is not, trying to call attention to an obvious height difference and the fact that the new Walter is circumcised, while her son wasn’t. Soon Collins brings Walter’s old teachers, dentist and doctor into the mix to call attention to the police’s attempt to convince the public that her son was returned, only to be incarcerated in an institution for the criminally insane.

When I first heard of Clint Eastwood directing a film called "Changeling", I assumed it would be some sort of hard nosed detective sort of story about a person who changes identities, with some investigations and an overall somber mood. Instead I got an interesting look at police corruption in the 1920’s, sort of an earlier “L.A. Confidential” (1997), but with no true action scenes, no good cops, a more compelling female protagonist and a lot slower. I guess it’s really nothing like “L.A. Confidential,” but the obsession the art directors had with making the time period look like it’s in the right time is nearly identical, though the world of “Changeling” is far too crisp and clean, almost like the city was just barely built rather than a dirtier, lived-in environment (more like 1930’s New York in Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” (2006) which was awesome).

Theoretically, "Changeling" is an interesting movie challenging patriarchal conceptions of motherhood, women and independence in the 1920’s. Jolie’s character is disbelieved, institutionalized without reason, and has to spend a long time waiting for the legal process to even think of working in her favor. In practice, it’s a boring, slow moving drama that should be incredibly character driven, but the inability of Jolie to disappear into the role or the film itself makes it a less engaging experience as I don’t buy her story as a character. Every time I look I see Angelina Jolie and not a woman of the 1920’s. Even though it’s based on a couple of true stories composited together and even though it creates some interesting feminist points, it doesn’t create dialogue; instead it mumbles its way through the a presentation on the story of a woman’s conflict with a corrupt patriarchal order.

Though not quite filled with as many actors as the true Oscar-bait movie of 2008 “Doubt,” “Changeling” had ‘for your consideration – Angelina Jolie’ written all over it. The story of the abduction and the child-murder farm are actually really intriguing, but aren’t particularly well told over the film’s length as the entire story mumbles and drags its feet up through the conclusion. If you need to see Jolie freak out for about an hour of screen time, mixed in with more subdued acting, “Changeling” is probably perfect, but in terms of the acting to match the storytelling, it’s fairly plain and slow.

Video

Presented in 1080p 24/fps with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio and VC-1 encoding, the film looks really sharp and crisp, preserving Eastwood’s lighting and showing off the set design. At the same time, the high-definition clarity of the film helps to add to set-feel of the film where everything looks so incredibly clean and crisp that it doesn’t look like an actual home, city or environment that people live in on a daily basis, rather it looks like just another movie set.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit is incredibly clean, much like the sound, and does a good job of bringing together the soundtrack in tandem with the dialogue and ambient noises of the film. The crispness here isn’t as much a detractor as with the video, however the scoring of the film doesn’t do anything to help the pacing of the film as the orchestra tends to meander through the film as my eyelids tend to meander closed during a few portions of the film. Audio is also available in French DTS 5.1 and subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, Spanish and French.

Extras

The Blu-Ray disc is equipped with some "U-Control" interactive features that are playable during the film, including 2 regular featurettes as well as picture-in-picture feature that plays during the film.

“Partners in Crime: Clint Eastwood and Angelina Joliefeaturette runs for 13 minutes and 33 seconds. Director Clint Eastwood, actress Angelina Jolie, screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski and producer Brian Grazer talk about creating the film, they all take a bit of their time to talk about how it’s based on a true story. There’s a good amount of behind-the-scenes footage and an interesting discussion of Eastwood’s directing, as well as how much Jolie fell in love with his directing. A fair amount of time is spent talking about how much everyone loves Eastwood as well, but it’s a little more understandable. It’s an interesting enough making-of featurette in dealing with the varied production aspects of the film, but still fairly brief for such a long film.

“The Common Thread: Angelina Jolie Becomes Christine Collins” featurette runs for 4 minutes and 58 seconds. Here Jolie talks a bit about her character, the impact of the script on her mentality and how she fell in love with the character through the film. The rest of the major players in the film drop in to talk about the character and Jolie herself. A brief look at the character, though almost half of it seems dedicated to the production design.

Next are the "U-Control" interactive features which are an interesting way to present different sides to the film while watching, though it makes it a bit harder to just jump to some insight that you wanted to see or hear. These features are accessible on profile 1.1 players or greater, they include:

- First are the “Archives”, which is a pop-up track with different little bits of information and images during the film, such as actual pictures or articles from that time. Fairly few and far between but interesting to see.
- Next is the “Los Angeles: Then and Now” feature which provides an interesting contrast between the Los Angeles of the 20’s and today, showing a view of different images such as the present skyline as compared with the 20’s skyline presented in the film.
- The picture-in-picture video commentary appears on 16 of the 20 scenes in the film providing some brief behind-the-scenes looks at different aspects of the film such as the use of trolly cars or cast insights on the film, or even how some of the different scenes were filmed, however they still reuse some of the material from the two stand alone featurettes, though providing some extensions or expanded conversation outside of the other two fairly brief clips.

There’s also a BD-Live feature which requires a profile 2.0 player and an internet connection to use to access downloadable content.

Overall

The Film: C- Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: C- Overall: B-

 


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