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Clint Eastwood's Film 'Changeling,' is True Story Stranger than Fiction


In 1928 in a Los Angeles suburb, the peaceful life of a young single mother is shattered when her 9-year-old son Walter disappears. Five months later, Los Angeles police tell Christine Collins that her son has been found. So far, this true story, dug up from L.A.'s public records, sounds like every other missing child story with a happy ending. But what followed shook up L.A. and brought down the city's political establishment. Now, 80 years later, director Clint Eastwood revives the story in his movie "Changeling." VOA's Penelope Poulou has more.

Capt. J.J. Jones, the officer in charge of the case, refuses to accept that he failed to find the real Walter, especially at a time when LAPD is under fire for corruption and incompetence. Things get even more complicated because the boy who has been found claims he is Walter.

Determined to fight for her son, Christine gathers evidence on his identity.

Capt. Jones dismisses Christine as hysterical and insolent because she dares to question his judgment.

Actress Angelina Jolie interprets Christine. She says, back then, women couldn't stand up to men.

"They had the final word. They could easily say 'You're emotional. You're a woman. You're a mother. You're not thinking clearly,' and a lot of people at that time would say, 'That's right,'" Jolie says.

Christine's situation worsens when Capt. Jones has her arrested and sent to a psychiatric ward. She is treated brutally there and is evaluated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Steele.

Christine gets help from a Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Gustav Briegleb, an outspoken critic of the police.

He gets her out of the hospital and recruits a high-profile lawyer to represent her in a suit against the city. At the same time, there is new evidence that Christine's son was abducted by a serial killer. The boy who has insisted he is Walter confesses that he is not.

Clint Eastwood says it is difficult to believe that the story is true.

"What this woman had to go through was really amazing," he says. "And the fact that she actually could bring down the whole political structure of Los Angeles in 1928 is amazing."

Eastwood's production is elaborate. The sets, costumes and gestures replicate the times. Colors are subdued, scenes are moody. Angelina Jolie offers a solid performance as a fragile and tormented mother. John Malcovich adds intensity and eccentricity to his character, the Rev. Briegleb. James Donovan is dark and unyielding as Capt. Jones.

Unfortunately, the characters, as written, are one-dimensional. Christine Collins, a beautiful lady, has no flaws. Capt. Jones is pure evil. Eastwood attempts to give equal treatment to the film's subplots, but in so doing, he loses focus and the movie drags on. In the end, it is the sheer power of Christine Collins's true story that makes "Changeling" an interesting film.

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