Second-Guessing Oscar: "Changeling"

There’s an Oscar-worthy performance in Changeling (***), but it’s not that of actual nominee Angelina Jolie.

As a single mother whose young son unexpectedly disappears one day when she’s at work, Jolie displays the requisite reactions of shock, anguish and despair competently. But she’s little more than a pretty women in a cloche hat (it’s 1928 Los Angeles ) and overly red lipstick. Her usual potent energy seems to have been hidden along with her voluptuous figure in those straight-arrow 20s sheath dresses.

[MILD SPOILER ALERT] The plot thickens when police find and return to her a boy they say is her son, although Christine (Jolie) knows instantly is not the same child. And it thickens still further as Christine must prove her own sanity and take on a corrupt city administration in hopes of finding the real boy.

The film wants to be a combination of The Return of Martin Guerre and Chinatown, but lacks the emotional pull of the former and the stellar writing of the latter. While director Clint Eastwood builds the film to a suspenseful and surprisingly grisly climactic encounter, it’s the bad guys, especially the bad guy (played with nightmare-inducing creepiness by Jason Butler Harner) who deserved the Oscar nods, not Jolie.

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