|Screening Room Jan/Feb - Page 2|
The story: in 1928, single-mother Christine Collins comes home from work and can't find her 9-year-old son, Walter. The LAPD—embodied by the arrogantly dismissive police captain Jeffrey Donovan—is of no help, as he assures her that Walter will come home. Naturally submissive, she politely tries to keep the police on their toes even as she begins to recognize that the cops are more interested in covering their asses than looking for her son. Anxious to show the public how smoothly the investigation has gone, Donovan convenes a press conference to announce that Walter has at last been found. The only problem is that Christine denies that the boy who's been found is her son. Embarrassed, the LAPD insists that Christine is a hysterical female too traumatized by her son's disappearance to know him when he's returned to her. The police, a psychiatrist, and other assorted professionals converge to assure her that the investigators have done their job, but she keeps insisting that something is terribly wrong.
When Christine refuses to stop stirring up trouble, the LAPD has her locked up in a psycho ward. Once there, she finds unexpected allies, especially a foul-mouthed hooker (Amy Ryan), who teaches her to find the toughness to tell off the men trying to drive her nuts. We watch as the retiring, victimized Christine becomes a steamroller of an activist and arouses the community into looking for lost kids. Another surprisingly resourceful Eastwood hero has been born. Along the way, we feel as though we're looking through a succession of faded period photographs from the 1920s as the film encourages us to embrace Christine's struggles. Changeling boasts the oldest of filmic virtues: a story that grips us and a central character impossible not to take to heart.
The virtues of Changeling couldn't be further from those exemplified by the movies Charles Kaufman has written: the quirky, hard-to-summarize, and utterly mind-blowing Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Kaufman's first directorial effort, Synecdoche, New York, which he also wrote, is a comedy about the repetitive mundaneness of life and the humbling inescapability of death.