Good reviews for Angelina Jolie in 'Changeling' = good news at Oscars time?
While there were enough naysayers to drag the overall Meta Critic score for "Changeling" down to 65, reviews from the likes of nationally known critics Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times ), Kenneth Turan (Los Angeles Times) and David Ansen (Newsweek) were positively glowing. All of them praised the performance of the Academy Award winning Angelina Jolie as the real-life heroine who battled the L.A. police in 1930 by refusing to accept a mysterious boy as her missing son. And they lauded the direction by four-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood.
Ebert saluted Eastwood's helming, saying it "displays the directness and economy of his mentor, Don Siegel. It has not a single unnecessary stylistic flourish. No contrived dramatics. No shocking stunts. Not a gunshot. A score (by Eastwood) that doesn't underline, but observes. The film simply tells its relentless story and rubs the LAPD's face in it." And he thought Jolie played her part "without unnecessary angles or quirks."
For Turan, "It is this edge of anxiety that is the heart of Jolie's deeply felt performance. Dealing with the recent death of her own mother and herself a mother with several children, Jolie brings emotional desperation to a role she quite possibly connected to in ways she wished she hadn't." He also lauded Eastwood for his recent run of films and thought this one, "unfolds with a melancholy fatalism, a sense of evil so pervasive it takes an act of will to believe that the persistence of goodness can make a difference." And Ansen thought Jolie, "plays her with admirable restraint and slow-burning ferocity" while Eastwood, "tells his haunting, sorrowful saga with such a sure, steady hand, only a very hardened cynic could fail to be moved."
While Ansen was the most lavish in his praise among the Gotham based critics, others there liked the film almost as much. Indeed, Lou Lumenick of the New York Post called it, "another remarkable addition to Eastwood's directorial canon" while Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "Jolie is inspired casting. She plays the role like a gathering storm, moving from terror to a fierce resolve." Among those less convinced, David Denby of the New Yorker said, "Jolie gives a skilled and selfless performance, but it doesn’t have an interesting corner in it." And Richard Corliss of Time thought, "In its purposeful accumulation of depravities, both individual and institutional, the director's non-style has an honorable payoff that's rare in modern Hollywood cinema: the story's weight could come close to burying you in despair."
Then there were those critics who found fault with the film. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly thought, "Jolie, who brought a tremulous power to her portrayal of Mariane Pearl in 'A Mighty Heart' -- another woman distraught over a lost loved one -- isn't given enough notes to play here. She's brave, despairing, defiant, and monotonous." Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal cited "Eastwood's ponderous direction" while David Edelstein of New York thought, "The way Eastwood shoves Jolie’s suffering in our face is like a threat to the Academy: 'And the Oscar will go to …' She’s a great actress. She doesn’t need his domineering chivalry."
Angelina Jolie has not been nominated for an Academy Award since she won best supporting actress of 1999 for "Girl, Interrupted." Just like in that film, she spends a good part of her screen time in "Changeling" locked up in the loony bin. Add to that the fact she is playing a real-life woman -- four of the last five best-actress winners and seven of the last 10 did just that -- and those good reviews cited above and Jolie remains a viable contender this year.
As for Clint Eastwood, four of his films have been nominated for best picture and best director ("Unforgiven," "Mystic River," "Million Dollar Baby," "Letters From Iwo Jima"). He won a pair of Oscars for each of "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby." Two years ago, it looked like his fall film "Flags of Our Fathers" would be his best-pic contender. Then Eastwood released a companion piece -- "Letters From Iwo Jima" in Japanese, no less -- at the end of the year and that was the one that put him into the Oscar race. Still ahead in this year's derby is "Gran Torino" which is due out Dec. 17. As usual, Eastwood directs and produces that picture but he also stars as a war vet dealing with his long-time prejudices. Already, several Oscarologists are predicting this as a best picture nominee.