“Changeling” Could Use a Few Changes

22 12 2008

changeling1

“Changeling” 2008

Starring: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Amy Ryan

“Changeling” is a film based on true events which occurred in Los Angeles in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is a story about a boy whose disappearance places his mother at the mercy of a corrupt police department, and her refusal to succumb to the scandal and deceit. It is also about the capture, conviction, and execution of a serial child murderer. It is not advertised as a horror film, but the content is truly horrific.

At it turns out, the killer is the least effective example of evil in the film. He is so clearly insane that it is impossible to hold him accountable for his gruesome crimes, yet director Clint Eastwood invites audience members to gain satisfaction from his agonizing death. There is also no explanation for the director’s desire to repulse his audience by depicting a child killer’s gruesome crimes onscreen, except perhaps to elicit enough revulsion towards the killer to justify the painfully drawn-out execution scene. Eastwood’s perverse focus on this particular character is misplaced, and distracts from (what should be) the real point of the story.

The story is meant to be about a woman who dares to challenge a pervasively corrupt law enforcement department with little more than her own strong will and the guardianship of an outspoken minister whose cause stands to gain a great deal of ground from her situation.

The film is effective in its portrayal of the corruption and greed that erode the Los Angeles Police Department. However, the film intermingles the discovery and prosecution of the child killer. As a result, we are distracted from a story about the cruel and inhumane treatment of adversaries to the LAPD by the unfathomable yet true story of the slaughter of dozens of innocent, terrified young boys.

Those involved in the corruption that pervades the LAPD are purely evil, devoid of empathy and utterly self-absorbed. These representations seem so exaggerated that they pose a threat to the legitimacy of the entire film. It may have been possible for an entire network of public servants to have been crooked, but we can’t imagine they were all so sadistic.

There is nothing enjoyable about watching “Changeling.” It is relentlessly distressing, and there is no opportunity for vindication, because the innocent are already irreversibly destroyed.

♦½

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