Year Released: 2008
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan
(R, 141 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspence
"I cannot bear a mother’s tears." Virgil
Director Clint Eastwood resurrects a winning formula that seems to have been forgotten in recent Hollywood. Miraculously free of gratuitous plot twists, ear-splitting explosions, cartoon inspired characters, or incipient nihilism, his film is about real people, real events, and real human emotions.
Indeed, the film is based on true events circa 1928 Los Angeles. It tells the heart wrenching tale of single mom Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), and the search for her missing nine-year old son Walter. After a fruitless six months, the police tell her they have found him in Illinois, and they arrange a well profiled reunion at the train station, just the right publicity for a police department embroiled in corruption accusations.
Except, it’s not her son. At least that is what a shocked Christine Collins says when the boy arrives. Police Captain J. J. Jones (Jeffrey Donovan from television’s Burn Notice) cautions her against a sudden judgment. After all, it has been six months and the boy has undergone some trauma. And little “Walter” himself insists he is the missing boy.
Largely because the guy has no where else to go, Christine takes him home, but she doesn’t buy the saccharine police assurances any more than she did their original ones that her missing son would probably show up himself before the mandatory 24 hour missing person waiting period had elapsed.
And she has some hard data, too. The newly arrived “little Walter” is in fact, little, a full three inches shorter than the mark on the wall Christine had penciled in for her boy months earlier. His dental records don’t agree, and even his teacher doesn’t recognize him.
However, the police department refuses to be embarrassed by their faux pas and quickly sends out their very own quack doctor to confirm that shock and malnutrition have probably slowed down Walter’s growth, even sending it back to negative territory. And when his illogic fails to quiet Mrs. Collins, the police declare her mentally ill and have her locked up under a special code that lets them put away anyone failing to dance to their tune.
Luckily, they have failed to reckon into their accounts the Reverend Gustav Briegleb, played by the redoubtable John Malkovich, who is every bit as impressive as the righteously indignant clergyman who befriends Mrs. Collins as he is in his usually darker roles. It is also refreshing to see a clergyman as one of the protagonists for a change.
Part of the beauty of the film is its atmosphere, the sepia toned rendition of an LA of quiet streets, sleek streetcars, and automobiles looking quite like the horseless carriages they were originally called. The steaming locomotive that “returns” Walter to his mother evokes all the nostalgia of that by bygone era, as do the flash powder explosions of the newspaper cameras. And especially captivating are in the inner workings of the telephone company where Mrs. Collins propels herself down the line of busy switchboard operators on a pair of roller skates. Just seeing each operator maneuver her way through the snake of wires to plug in each call individually humanizes an industry that has evolved into a nameless void of hypertechnology.
Angelina Jolie plays her role with just the right combination of desperation and determination, hiding her sensual glamour under a cloche, her blood red lips down turned in sorrow rather than a glossy pout. As police captain, Jeffrey Donovan puts a persuasive Irish lilt in his insincere words, a ready smile to hide a manipulative heart. Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott is pure genius, a wiley sycophant, all the more menacing for his smarmy goodwill and unctuous groveling. Might we expect an Oscar nod for his efforts?
So, even though the summer drought has not yet ended, at least not here in Texas, the dusty plains of filmdom may yet be starting to green.
Changeling takes place just before and into the Great Depression and hard working single mom Christine Collins has every reason to economize. But like our forbears who lived through those dark days, a little ingenuity could make up for a light purse.
I have chosen a dish that is as high in nutrition as it is low in cost, Bean Soup. Just the thing to fill your tummy on a crisp autumn evening.
Here are a few more hearty soups and some great cornbread, too.
Hearty Bean Soup
1 package dried navy beans
Fresh vegetables including carrots, onions, celery, etc.
1 medium potato, peeled, or cup of mashed
Dash powdered cloves
2 cups cooked ham, cubed, optional
Pick over beans looking for stones. Bring a pot of water to a boil and dump in beans. Cover and off heat. Season with salt and pepper. Soak overnight.
Trim and slice vegetables. Add to soup pot. Place a third of the mixture in a blender. Blend until smooth.
Drain remaining beans. Add blended mixture and chicken broth until desired consistency.
Slowly simmer until whole beans are tender. The longer it cooks, the better.
Serve with golden wedges of corn bread and butter and jam or apple butter.
Recipe Source: Gatehouse News Service