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dir Clint Eastwood
scr J Michael Straczynski
with Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Colm Feore, Jeffrey Donovan, Michael Kelly, Amy Ryan, Jason Butler Harner, Eddie Alderson, Gattlin Griffith, Devon Conti, Geoff Pierson, Denis O'Hare
release US 24.Oct.08, UK 28.Nov.08
08/US Universal 2h21
Help me find my boy: Malkovich and Jolie
CANNES FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
A powerful true story makes this film worth seeing, plus some strong performances. But Eastwood chooses to tell this as an over-produced, over-wrought melodrama that feels like it'll never end.
In 1928 Los Angeles, Christine (Jolie) is a single mother whose 9-year-old son Walter (Griffith) goes missing. She struggles with what she sees as police inaction, but this is nothing compared to what comes next: the cops give her another boy (Conti), claiming he's Walter. And when she protests, the chief (Feore) and captain (Donovan) commit her to a mental hospital rather than admit their mistake. But a local preacher (Malkovich) takes her cause, and Christine won't let it go.
Frankly, this feels like a bloated Ron Howard film (indeed, he's one of the producers): a terrific story that could have been an excellent movie if it was leaner and sharper, rather than stretched out through rampant overstatement and sequences that aren't strictly necessary. This has the effect of watering down Jolie's solid performance through overexposure, as if the filmmakers want to make her jump through every hoop imaginable. And it also leaves us more interested in the production design than the characters. Especially since the villains are all broad, one-note monsters.
The look of the film is seriously interesting, from the opening effects shot of L.A.'s 1920s skyline to the Red Cars on the streets and an immaculate attention to detail in costumes, cars and buildings. But the simple fact we're so interested in all of this set dressing is a big, big problem. A good film would make these things fade into the background where they belong. This movie simply can't keep us interested in the story because it's so flatly told.
That said, the momentous events themselves are truly fascinating. Christine's odyssey is absolutely horrific, and the way she stands up to the sexist, corrupt system is powerfully inspirational. But it would have been much stronger without all of the sideroads, following the investigation into a serial killer (Harner), and his subsequent trial, which runs alongside Christine's own case. Even though it's relevant, it badly saps the energy from the central story, leaving us to merely admire the scenery rather than take righteous action.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
|Jim Hodgson, Banning CA: "Yes, the film labors to tell both tales. The murderer's story is relevant; that's why it belongs. And the sets may be one of the stars; that's why set decorators and cinematographers get awards, too. I found Eastwood's use of his environment absolutely essential to the mood and tenor of the film and a clear plus. Overall, this film delivers the promise of what a Hollywood film should be better than any in recent memory. Despite its melodrama and liberties with history, Eastwood weaves a riveting story with powerful performances; Jolie's of course but also Michael Kelly's". (6.Nov.08)
© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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