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  • "Changeling" JMSnews Reviews - *SPOILERS*

    Let's use this thread to post our own reviews of "Changeling". Real reviews, with examples of why you think what you do, not just whether you liked it or not.

    Good, bad or indifferent, the only rules are the usual ones about staying polite and that you have to have either read the screenplay or seen the movie - or both.

    Let the reviews begin!

    Jan
    Last edited by Jan; 10-24-2008, 08:58 AM.
    "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jan View Post
    Let's use this thread to post our own reviews of "Changling". Real reviews, with examples of why you think what you do, not just whether you liked it or not.

    Good, bad or indifferent, the only rules are the usual ones about staying polite and that you have to have either read the screenplay or seen the movie - or both.

    Let the reviews begin!

    Jan
    What is this "Changling" of which you speak?



    Sorry, couldn't resist.
    The Optimist: The glass is half full
    The Pessimist: The glass is half empty
    The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Garibaldi's Hair View Post


      Sorry, couldn't resist.
      <innocent> I don't know what you mean! I don't see any typos...



      Jan
      "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

      Comment


      • #4
        I’ve read the screenplay, but I've not seen the movie – and I won’t until it opens in Germany on Jan 22. I don't think this qualifies as a "real review", it’s more an attempt to structure some thoughts on things that stood out for me. Major spoilers ahead.

        Overall I really liked the script. It was a very compelling read, I found it really hard to put down, especially during the first part. I found the scenes with Christine meeting her "son", Christine arguing with Jones, Christine being questioned by Dr. Steele positively kafka-esque and very well done. I also liked the way the Northcott crimes were introduced, via the interrogation of the Sanford kid and digging out the bones - without showing off the entire brutality. It works a lot better just hinting at what happened and leaving the rest to the reader’s imagination.

        The broadening of the story when the Northcott subplot comes into play is a left-turn and a bit distracting at first; thus it may seem to some the script loses focus. I suppose it is a question how this plays out on screen. The same applies to the ending, or rather endings (plural); in the script it feels a bit dragged out, but it depends on how it works on screen.

        However, as I said in the spoiler thread, I don’t think it’s JMS best work. I find it a bit difficult to put my feelings into words … one reviewer wrote that Changeling didn’t feel quite like the work of the same man who wrote his previous work, and that’s partly how I feel about the script. I think my biggest problem is the characterisation of some of the major players, especially Christine, Jones, and Davis. I don’t have these complaints with respect to Briegleb (whom I don’t find as holy as some of the reviewers) or Northcott (basically because I don’t think such a character can be portrayed as ambiguous).

        To begin with there’s Christine, who is idealised to the point of near saintly status. I’ve no problem with her being the unambiguously “good gal” of the story and the courageous victim fighting a corrupt establishment. But what’s happening here is that a moral superiority is established in far more than that respect. Christine isn’t only the courageous victim of the police, she also is basically the model mother left by her husband (I thought in real life he was in prison, and didn’t leave Christine out of lack of responsibility), and a model female worker. Her moral impeccability is emphasised on about every level imaginable.

        Cases in point:
        Christine: "Rule number one: Never start a fight, but always finish it." (Basically the same line appears later in a conversation with Briegleb). While this is a nice line if given to a fictional larger-than-life hero like John Sheridan in a quasi fantasy setting, for a working woman in the 1920s I find it moralising and not very credible.

        Christine: "Well, the same day you were born, something else arrived. It came in the mail, in a box just slightly bigger than you. You know what was in that box? Something called responsibility. Now, to some people, responsibility is fun, it's what you live your whole life for. Other people think it's the scariest thing in the world." Same thing here. In a fantasy setting, that sort of speeches works fine for me. In a story like Changeling, they sound overwritten, preachy, and moralising to me. It’s the same during the rest of the exchange.

        Another example:
        Walter: "I'm not afraid of the dark. I'm not afraid of anything." (immediately to mind sprang the same line spoken by Captain Kirk in Star Trek V.)
        CHRISTINE: "I know you're not, honey. That's how I raised you." Again, Christine – the model mum.

        The entire part of Christine conversing with Walter at the beginning of the script just had me thinking, "yes, I got it who’s the good guy here". There are similar parts in the scenes in the telephone company. Later she even apologises to the bogus "Walter" who keeps lying to her for in return yelling at him. The way the moral superiority of Christine is established here is just too obtrusive for my tastes, to the extent that she comes across like some real-life version of Lily Potter (and this is not a compliment). On a side note to this entire topic, I read in an article that in real life Walter disappeared on his way to the movies, while in the film he is kidnapped at home. If the real life bit is true, this is another instance of idealising Christine, because letting a nine year old going to the movies alone might be considered a tad irresponsible and would certainly serve to undermine the impeccable image of Christine. It’s one thing to establish Christine as the good guy (or gal) and the courageous victim, but developing her into a near saintly character is something entirely different and imo just unnecessary. Not even our larger-than-life fantasy hero Sheridan was as flawless as that.

        The reverse is of course true for Jones, Davis and the entire rest of the police department (except Ybarra) who don’t seem to have the least bit of a redeeming trait to them. Notable examples:

        Davis: "We will hold court on gunmen in the Los Angeles streets. I want them brought in dead, not alive, and I will reprimand any officer who shows the least mercy to a criminal." […]
        Two officers are sexually assaulting a woman on the stairs.


        Now I don’t know if Davis’ speech and the incident with the sexual harassment are documented exactly that way, but again, the manner the police are established as the "bad guys" here is less than subtle. Add to this Briegleb’s speeches about the "evil LAPD", which I don’t think are ever doubted to be completely true (one might wonder if Briegleb, basically a crusader, doesn’t have a reason for exaggerating a bit), and the conversation between Jones and Ybarra after Ybarra interrogated the Sanford kid.

        Apart from that, there are a few clich&#233;s I could have done without, like Christine being rescued at last second from electroshock therapy, or Christine collapsing into Briegleb’s arms, and why Eastwood decided to change a plate falling to the floor into old-style plate smashing remains his secret. There were also some instances where I think the dialogue could have used a polish ("I will tear down the walls of this place with my bare hands if I have to, but one way or another –", "It will be my honour to defend your honour" for two notable examples). But these are minor issues. As I said, overall I quite liked the script, the biggest problem being these characterisation issues that I think are responsible for that feeling "this doesn’t quite feel like JMS script for me".
        Last edited by mandragora; 10-24-2008, 12:25 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by mandragora View Post
          On a side note to this entire topic, I read in an article that in real life Walter disappeared on his way to the movies, while in the film he is kidnapped at home. If the real life bit is true, this is another instance of idealising Christine, because letting a nine year old going to the movies alone might be considered a tad irresponsible and would certainly serve to undermine the impeccable image of Christine.
          Just a quick comment on this because I've seen similar comments in several places. That viewpoint is strictly from the current era, not applicable to what actually happened in the past. As late as 1964 which is when I did it, there was no stigma at all attached to a child going to the movies on their own. The movie house I went to was in Chicago, about 8 blocks and two busy streets from home. (ETA: 1964 was when I was nine, not when I was born. When my oldest sister was ten or eleven, she was considered responsible and allowed to take her two younger sisters, eight and four years old, to the movies. Twelve year olds were allowed to babysit multiple kids for hours at a time back in the days before cell phones made parents instantly available no matter where they were.)

          It's only in recent years that parents are expected to supervise their kids every moment of every day. I feel sorry for kids these days.

          Jan
          Last edited by Jan; 10-25-2008, 07:43 AM.
          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Jan View Post
            Just a quick comment on this because I've seen similar comments in several places. That viewpoint is strictly from the current era, not applicable to what actually happened in the past. As late as 1964 which is when I did it, there was no stigma at all attached to a child going to the movies on their own. The movie house I went to was in Chicago, about 8 blocks and two busy streets from home.

            It's only in recent years that parents are expected to supervise their kids every moment of every day. I feel sorry for kids these days.

            Jan
            Thanks for that clarification. I don't know the laws on that subject even in my country, but I do recall that things were a lot less restricted about 30 years ago (I'm 42). But then again I've grown up in a small town where you could leave your house with the door unlocked and nothing would've happened. In any case, for me it's more a question of how the audience will react to such changes (the whereabouts of her husband being another one). And I think that in this respect the change influences the reaction in favour of Christine.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by mandragora View Post
              In any case, for me it's more a question of how the audience will react to such changes (the whereabouts of her husband being another one). And I think that in this respect the change influences the reaction in favour of Christine.
              I'm not sure we can accurately say that changes were made except perhaps what we'll see changed between the script and the finished movie. JMS has said that some things were cut, particularly from the beginning. I read the same bit about (paraphrasing) Walter being given a dime to go to the movie but I don't recall the source. It wouldn't surprise me if it's just one of the several inexact statements I've already seen in reviews. As for the whereabouts of Christine's husband, I don't see a conflict. He could easily have been a deadbeat dad before going to prison. The only data bits that we have are that Christine said that he ran away right about the time Walter was born and that he was in prison nine years later. A lot can happen in nine years.

              The negative criticisms I've seen so far seem to focus on two things once you filter out the critic's prejudices and conjectures about Clint and/or Angelina's motives. First, that the characters tend to be strictly black and white with little depth or growth. With the exception of Christine Collins, that may well be true. With her, depending on how the movie was cut, I think we'll see a lot of growth in her strength to stand up to authority figures. As for the others, what I've read in the script and expect to see is that the characters will be playing their agendas rather than any attempt at playing three dimensional people. Given the sheer number of characters, I don't see that there was much choice to do anything else but I'll be interested to see how it plays onscreen.

              Second is the number of threads and 'false endings' to the film and that's something that concerned me from the first time I read the script because it is kind of tiring. It wasn't until reading Roger Ebert's review
              "Eastwood's telling of this story isn't structured as a thriller, but as an uncoiling of outrage."
              yesterday that I felt a reviewer finally got what was going on in the movie and not trying to pigeon-hole it. If we get tired just watching the multiple threads close, think of what it had to do to Christine Collins. Over and over she was faced with outrageous things that might break (or at least grind down) a lesser person and each successive thing takes any possibility of closure away from her, especially when Northcott is executed.

              Finally, I think what is almost completely missed is just how *much* the times have changed since the events of the movie. Sure, people automatically note the differences in how women are treated (though I notice a strong whiff of disbelief about that in a few reviews) but one of the main differences between then and now is that "keeping up appearances" was of vital importance back then. There was none of the tranparency that we have now. Back then, the fact that Christine's husband was in prison would have been a major stigma that would have cast a shadow on both her and Walter so there would have been extra pressure for Christine to be the model mother. And part of those appearances was a fair amount of emphasis on black-and-white or good-and-bad without greys or ambiguity which is how this movie is presented.

              I can't wait to see it in the theater next Friday so I can do a real review but these are my thoughts so far, kind of a rebuttal of other reviews. I hear that SmileOfTheShadow went to see it last night. Hopefully he'll come by to tell us what he thinks.

              Jan
              "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Jan
                I'm not sure we can accurately say that changes were made except perhaps what we'll see changed between the script and the finished movie. JMS has said that some things were cut, particularly from the beginning. I read the same bit about (paraphrasing) Walter being given a dime to go to the movie but I don't recall the source. It wouldn't surprise me if it's just one of the several inexact statements I've already seen in reviews. As for the whereabouts of Christine's husband, I don't see a conflict. He could easily have been a deadbeat dad before going to prison. The only data bits that we have are that Christine said that he ran away.
                Again, what the data are saying and if something has been changed isn't really the question for me. For me it comes down to the portrayal of Christine, who as I argued feels more like a saint in the script than a real person (and from the reviews I've read I'm not the only one getting this impression). If there is a conflict with the data or if it is consistent is secondary, because this isn't a documentary after all. They way it is presented suggests that Christine was left by her husband because he lacks responsibility, which makes Christine a victim of male lack of responsibility on yet another level added to that of the police.

                First, that the characters tend to be strictly black and white with little depth or growth. With the exception of Christine Collins, that may well be true. With her, depending on how the movie was cut, I think we'll see a lot of growth in her strength to stand up to authority figures.
                I wouldn't say that Christine lacks depth or growth. I don't agree that she's not a complex character. It's just that she is elevated to a saintly level, which for a real-life person isn't credible for me.

                As for the others, what I've read in the script and expect to see is that the characters will be playing their agendas rather than any attempt at playing three dimensional people.
                Well, in a "true story", most people expect the characters to resemble true people, not plot devices.

                It wasn't until reading Roger Ebert's review "Eastwood's telling of this story isn't structured as a thriller, but as an uncoiling of outrage." --
                yesterday that I felt a reviewer finally got what was going on in the movie and not trying to pigeon-hole it.
                If only one out of fifty reviewers "got" the film, then in my opinion the problem might be with the film, and not the reviewers. If out of fifty reviewers only one "got it", then chances are the majority of the audience won't "get it" either.

                And yes, times have changed. There is still no need to idealise Christine in matters that have little to do with the actual case, just to establish her impeccability on yet another level, or to villainise Jones or Davis beyond their incompetence and ruthlessness handling the case, just to give an extra hate-factor to them. It's also not like none of these reviewers has ever seen another period piece set in the early 20th century, and thus have no idea how this time is usually dealt with on film.
                Last edited by mandragora; 10-25-2008, 10:08 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Walter Collins, Sr.

                  Originally posted by Jan View Post
                  As for the whereabouts of Christine's husband, I don't see a conflict. He could easily have been a deadbeat dad before going to prison. The only data bits that we have are that Christine said that he ran away right about the time Walter was born and that he was in prison nine years later. A lot can happen in nine years. ...

                  Jan
                  From what I have been able to piece together, Walter Collins, Sr. was imprisoned in Folsom Prison for running a Speakeasy, an illegal bar also known as a gin joint or gin mill. I do not currently have a specific date of when Walter Collins, Sr. went to prison.

                  I plan to write a review of Changeling after I see the film on October 31, 2008. I will probably also read the script before writing the review.

                  One problem I will have in reviewing Changeling is that I have done a lot of research on the case. Any errors of fact will tend to be jarring for me as a result. For instance, Arthur Hutchings states at the train station that he lives at 210 Avenue 23. Christine and Walter Collins actually lived at 217 N Avenue 23, Los Angeles, CA 90031.

                  I also chuckled when Clint Eastwood admitted to an example of dramatic license at the press conference at Cannes. Tube radios typically took a few minutes to warm up. According to the reporter who asked the question, the radio in the film only took a few seconds to warm up.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I saw this last night and was most definitely pleased. It was really a heart wrenching movie. If you are expecting an action-packed thriller, this is not the movie you're going to see. It's very introspective, and you really just get further and further into Angelina's character's emotions...it's really incredible.

                    Parts of it actually reminded me a lot of JMS' twilight zone episodes, some of the less sci-fi ones, that is. You can definitely see his horror writing come out during certain points.

                    It's definitely a literary piece, as you look at it, it does come full circle and is developed very nicely. Very non-formulaic though, as it's really hard to pinpoint exactly where the climax is.

                    The directing used that kind of over-exposed look that a lot of the more artsy films do. The colors were all very muted except for the cable cars and the "bad guy", who had quite a bright tie. It provided for a very surrealistic feel that we would all probably feel like the world was like if this sorta situation happened to us.

                    The musical theme was nice too, and I was surprised to find that Clint Eastwood also did the music himself.

                    The acting was superb as well. I really am not finding much in terms of fault with this film. Of course, it's such an emotional piece that it's really hard to analyze it on the first viewing. I'm going to go a second time next week to get a more objective view.

                    Hope that helps!

                    Jon
                    Flying Sparks Web Comic - A Hero and Villain In Love. Updates on Wednesdays
                    True Believer Reviews: Comic Reviews and Interviews on Wednesdays and Fridays - Or Your Money Back!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by mandragora View Post
                      Again, what the data are saying and if something has been changed isn't really the question for me. For me it comes down to the portrayal of Christine, who as I argued feels more like a saint in the script than a real person (and from the reviews I've read I'm not the only one getting this impression).
                      I guess it's a matter of taste and style. In the case of this particular story, I think it serves the story where too much in the way of 'real person' bits would have lost the focus.

                      Well, in a "true story", most people expect the characters to resemble true people, not plot devices.
                      Again we seem to disagree. In a true story, I expect as little extrapolation as possible to maintain credibility. What we see is what's actually known about these characters. Could one of the 'bad' characters have shown some remorse for what he did, or hesitation before doing it? Sure. But the truth is what he did and speculating on what he felt about it wouldn't be true, it would be fictionalizing. Given the complaints about the film being overlong we already have, that would have been about the extent of additional characterization we could possibly have seen, imo.

                      If only one out of fifty reviewers "got" the film, then in my opinion the problem might be with the film, and not the reviewers. If out of fifty reviewers only one "got it", then chances are the majority of the audience won't "get it" either.
                      Sorry, I phrased that badly. Finally, Ebert put into words what I'd felt all along. It may have been the fault of publicity materials but I never felt that "Changeling" fit into any neat and tidy classification.

                      And yes, times have changed. There is still no need to idealise Christine in matters that have little to do with the actual case, just to establish her impeccability on yet another level, or to villainise Jones or Davis beyond their incompetence and ruthlessness handling the case, just to give an extra hate-factor to them. It's also not like none of these reviewers has ever seen another period piece set in the early 20th century, and thus have no idea how this time is usually dealt with on film.
                      Depends on the reviewer. Is it right for me to utterly discount most of the blogger reviews? Maybe not but from what I've seen, they do seem the most clueless. Also, the phrase "prohibition era" is used frequently to set the tone and I don't think that many (excuse the term) kids these days have much of a clue to what that means.

                      Originally posted by Dan Dassow
                      I plan to write a review of Changeling after I see the film on October 31, 2008. I will probably also read the script before writing the review.
                      Wow, you haven't read it yet? You've got a stronger will than I have! I'm reading it again since I'll be away from home when I see it next weekend.

                      Jan
                      "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        *sigh* I thought I've made myself clear, but obviously I haven't.

                        Originally posted by mandragora
                        Overall I really liked the script. It was a very compelling read, I found it really hard to put down, especially during the first part.
                        To repeat, overall i really liked the script. I just don't think it's flawless or JMS' best work.

                        Originally posted by Jan View Post
                        I guess it's a matter of taste and style. In the case of this particular story, I think it serves the story where too much in the way of 'real person' bits would have lost the focus.
                        [...]
                        Again we seem to disagree. In a true story, I expect as little extrapolation as possible to maintain credibility. What we see is what's actually known about these characters.
                        Maybe you are confusing what I said with what some of the reviewers said. My issues, as stated in my original post, mostly relate to private conversations between Christine and Walter. What exactly Christine Collins said to her son in their home, or on their way to the bus stop, or to her colleagues in the phone company is very unlikely to be documented, and thus it isn't "actually known" about the characters. Meaning that contrary to what you are suggesting, what I criticised relates precisely to the extrapolation and not to what is actually known about the characters.

                        Originally posted by Jan
                        Could one of the 'bad' characters have shown some remorse for what he did, or hesitation before doing it? Sure. But the truth is what he did and speculating on what he felt about it wouldn't be true, it would be fictionalizing.
                        I didn't, to my knowledge, complain about none of the "bad characters" showing remorse. I complained about them being villainised by adding tidbits that I'm not sure are documented that way, like the sexual harassment of women by the police, and about the way Briegleb's accounts are never called into doubt, even though considering his agenda there's reason to believe he might not be telling the entire truth either.

                        Originally posted by Jan
                        Sorry, I phrased that badly. Finally, Ebert put into words what I'd felt all along. It may have been the fault of publicity materials but I never felt that "Changeling" fit into any neat and tidy classification.
                        On that I agree. But if the majority of the reviewers doesn't seem to "get it", then there's something wrong with the film. I have been an ardent defender of the Star Wars prequels from day one, and in my opinion the poor reception is mostly due to 90 percent of the audience "not getting" what Lucas was trying to do. But this isn't the fault of the audience. If the majority of the audience doesn't "get" the movie, then the filmmaker has failed to communicate what he was trying to say big time, no matter how much thought he put into it. People aren't that stupid.

                        Originally posted by Jan
                        Depends on the reviewer. Is it right for me to utterly discount most of the blogger reviews? Maybe not but from what I've seen, they do seem the most clueless. Also, the phrase "prohibition era" is used frequently to set the tone and I don't think that many (excuse the term) kids these days have much of a clue to what that means.
                        There's a guy on IMDB boards who dismisses any criticism of the movie on the grounds that they are all just stupid "kid bloggers". Except it's not just the "kid bloggers" who have a couple of complaints. Go to http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/changeling2008 for a sample of reviews that doesn't include "kid bloggers". And quite a few of them have similar complaints.
                        Last edited by mandragora; 10-25-2008, 01:42 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by mandragora View Post
                          *sigh* I thought I've made myself clear, but obviously I haven't.

                          To repeat, overall i really liked the script. I just don't think it's flawless or JMS' best work.
                          Never doubted it. This is just a discussion, no accusations intended or implied that you didn't like it. Thing is, as much as we often don't agree, Mandragora, I very much enjoy the discussions!

                          Jan
                          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jan View Post
                            Wow, you haven't read it yet? You've got a stronger will than I have! I'm reading it again since I'll be away from home when I see it next weekend.

                            Jan
                            I read the first 15 pages and the last page, mainly to see how well it corresponded to The Curious Case of Christine Collins. I had hoped that Universal would have included the newspaper articles with the script. I was somewhat disappointed at a glaring error on the last page.

                            Originally posted by mandragora View Post
                            There's a guy on IMDB boards who dismisses any criticism of the movie on the grounds that they are all just stupid "kid bloggers". Except it's not just the "kid bloggers" who have a couple of complaints. Go to http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/changeling2008 for a sample of reviews that doesn't include "kid bloggers". And quite a few of them have similar complaints.
                            I presume you are referring to the Angelina Jolie zealot. Unfortunately, the Jolie zealotry and bigotry has spilled over to the IMDb Changeling discussion board. I also see the start of the same lunacy that plagued the IMDb The Dark Knight discussion board.

                            I have generally found Metacritic to be a better guage of a movie than Rotten Tomatoes.

                            I am looking forward to a cordial discussion of the strengths and weakness of Changeling after I have seen the film.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Dan Dassow View Post
                              I presume you are referring to the Angelina Jolie zealot. Unfortunately, the Jolie zealotry and bigotry has spilled over to the IMDb Changeling discussion board. I also see the start of the same lunacy that plagued the IMDb The Dark Knight discussion board.
                              Actually I'm referring to a Clint Eastwood zealot. Much as it is necessary to filter out the Jolie and Eastwood haters, it's also necessary to filter out the Eastwood fanboys.

                              Originally posted by Dan Dassow
                              I have generally found Metacritic to be a better guage of a movie than Rotten Tomatoes.
                              I agree.

                              Comment

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