Almost as soon as I hit “publish” on my Changeling piece earlier saying a negative review had come in a new commentor challenged the article saying I was ignoring all the positive buzz for the film that came out of Cannes back in May. Admittedly I only linked to one positive review and not others (here are one, two and three more), but I also didn’t link to three more negative reviews (the only three new NYFF reviews I could find), which I will do right now along with a little paraphrasing:
In attempts to portray the injustices of L.A., the film becomes aggravating (the increasing difficulties are relentless and bordering on improbably). And in the effort to reveal mystery of what happened to her son later on in the picture, the film just becomes excessively long and a little exhausting. That’s not to say there aren’t any profound and powerful scenes. There’s one in particular in the end which is just Jolie’s reaction to a major discovery in the story that’s show-stopping emotionally. But overall? Hmm… not really sticking with us on any major level.
Gorgeous to look at and stirring in parts, Changeling is a dressed-up period piece with nowhere to go, a cipher masquerading as a heartfelt piece of work.
Bad Clint Eastwood movies tend to play like parodies of good Clint Eastwood movies, and his latest, a loose dramatization of the Wineville Chicken Murders and the accompanying media blitz and police scandal that rocked Los Angeles in the late 1920s, is almost a bigger muddle than Flags of Our Fathers […] Changeling is an example of a great director biting off more than he cares to chew, functioning mostly as its own Oscar campaign.
These three are in addition to Karina Longworth’s review at Spout:
We drink every time Angelina hysterically proclaims, “He’s not my son!” We get very drunk, and this may be why we can’t figure out why Clint Eastwood made a cheap-looking Lifetime movie that eventually turns into an “And justice for all!” episode of “SVU”. Just when the drinking game is starting to get really out of control, there’s a twist so shocking that it’s punctuated by two inches of ash falling off a policeman’s cigarette … in slow motion.
I am not saying this means Changeling is a bad film, but I am saying I never got the feeling the film actually wowed folks as much as Angelina Jolie’s performance wowed them. One of the best summations I can find comes from Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood-Elsewhere in the form of a photo caption review of all things, but I think it really gets to the heart of what most reviewers seem to be thinking:
It’s an Eastwood film, all right. Longish and leisurely (but not slovenly) paced. Delivers a keen sense of humanity and moral clarity. Offers a complex but rewarding story. Really nice music, as usual, that lends a feeling of warmth and assurance. Superbly acted, shot, and paced (not every movie has to feel like a machine gun). More than a few top-notch performances. Some overly black or white-ish characterizations, but not to the extent that they bug you horribly. A movie that understands itself and its subject matter completely. Aimed at adults (i.e., those 25 and over with the ability/willingness to process this sort of thing). Not a great film, but a very fine one. Terrible last line, though.
I didn’t have to write this rebuttal, but I didn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t being fair to the flick. There is just a vibe I get from the responses to this film that lead me to believe it isn’t going to hold over and once the masses see it outside of a film festival environment and don’t have to rush their reviews we will get more of a legitimate response. It didn’t have the Slumdog Millionaire or The Wrestler buzz that you would expect from an Eastwood film so I remain hesitant to offer up any kind of real opinion.
Nevertheless, I thank our new reader “brecken” for questioning the article and forcing me to work a little harder. I hope this helps clear some things up.