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Member Name: sunmeilan
Advantages: A compelling story, Angelina Jolie is great
Disadvantages: Some threads of the story skipped over
I am not a fan of Angelina Jolie; I think she has been over-rated in the past and so avoided watching this film for some time. However, the story attracted me, even more so because it is based on a true story, and the fact that it is directed by Clint Eastwood helped too. I have to admit though that Angelina Jolie was really very good here. She could have thrown herself around the screen, crying and shouting, but she actually plays Christine in a very understated way, whilst still portraying her grief. She also completely looks the part - hair and make-up have done a fabulous job and she could have walked straight out of the 1920s. This is a really good performance, particularly because Christine is the centre of all the proceedings, and I will be much less likely to write Jolie off in the future.
Other characters really only have very minor roles. The only other one that stands out is John Malkovich as the Reverend. I didn't recognise him at all - Malkovich really is the king of disguises. His acting is nothing out of the ordinary here, but then, he really wasn't on-screen all that much. Jeffrey Donovan as Captain JJ Jones was good, suitably obnoxious and forthright with the backing of the police behind him. Donovan was particularly good in court when being asked some awkward questions - he doesn't say much, but the expression on his face told a million stories. Amy Ryan is also in the film as someone who supports Christine - she is good, but she is barely there, and her character has little chance to develop.
One of the things that I liked best about the film was the historical detail. Set in Los Angeles in the late twenties and early thirties, everything looks amazingly realistic, thanks to some superb costumes and the use of replica streetcars. Jolie looks absolutely perfect with some wonderful clothes - dropped waists and cloche hats - whilst looking completely respectable. And clearly a great deal of effort went into ensuring the setting was as accurate as possible. I am not an expert on the period by any stretch of the imagination, but it is obvious that Clint Eastwood and his team put a huge amount of effort into researching the period and ensuring that everything looked as perfect as possible.
The story is a great one; all the more so, because it is based on a real occurence. If I hadn't known this, I would have thought that the story was a little far-fetched, because it all seems so amazingly impossible - certainly the idea that a mother could be locked up for refusing to accept that the boy wasn't her own son is bizarre. Of course, one of the reasons for the story is to show the corruption of the Los Angeles police at the time, and this is certainly brought up more than once. However, I think Eastwood made a good decision to not let it take over from the horror that Christine Collins must have faced. There are details of the story that are kept vague or are even glossed over, but bearing in mind the film is already over 2 hours, I don't think it would have been possible to keep it going for any longer.
The part of the film that struck the greatest chord with me was Christine's incarceration in a mental hospital. Obviously, I don't know exactly how realistic it was, but knowing a little about the history of mental health, I wouldn't be surprised to find that it was very realistic. I am just relieved to know that the attitude to mental health, although still shocking on the part of the general public, has generally changed a great deal - particularly in the way that patients are now treated. This is probably the most moving part of the film and I imagine is the main reason that the rating is 15. I can certainly imagine that it would horrify children, especially if they don't fully understand that sort of behaviour no longer exists.
There are just two extras, but they are quite chunky ones, so fans of all the extra information that they contain shouldn't be disappointed. The first one, according to the title, looks at the relationship between Eastwood and Jolie, but is really more of a behind the scenes feature. I was particularly interested in the sections on Eastwoods directing methods - he is apparently very laid-back, yet economical, and manages to get things done very easily and quickly. The history of how the script came to be written and how the setting was found is also fascinating. The second looks at how Angelina Jolie 'became' Christine Collins.
I was very impressed by this film. Although it is much longer than I would usually like, I didn't find myself getting bored, because there was always something going on - this made up for the fact that there were a few things in the plot that were glossed over. I think anyone who enjoys a well-made film should enjoy this, particularly if mysteries appeal. If, like me, you've put off watching this because of Angelina Jolie, think again - she is very good and, coupled with the general excellence of the rest of the film, really makes it worth seeing. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £3.99.
Running time: 141 minutes
Summary: Surprisingly good performance from Angelina Jolie