(BY ALI NADERZAD) Clint Eastwood’s Changeling screened today as part of the Selection Officielle. It stars Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and Jeffrey Donovan. Set in 1930s Los Angeles, the film’s first notable accomplishment is its art direction: from the Ford Model Ts lining LA’s quiet residential streets to the rickety trolleys going past, Eastwood’s team did their homework and the effects are impressive. The story, based on an original screenplay by J. Michael Straczynski centers around Christine Collins (Jolie), a single mother who has to juggle work responsibilities with those of motherhood. Her boy disappears after she is asked to come in to work on an off day which sets off a long-winded search for the boy with the help of LA’s police department. During that time, we’re told, the LAPD teemed with corrupt and violent officers who partook in illicit activities as much as the people they were supposed to keep off the streets. In the next two hours Collins struggles to face a growing conspiracy stoked by the police department. An often encountered flaw in Hollywood films is the overwrought and pervasive sentimentality which tends to bog down characters. There’s a visible attempt to tug at our heart’s strings, and the film becomes tedious as a result. What could be more distressful for a mother than being separated from her boy, you ask? You’re right, absolutely. And sentiment would be fine as along as other elements of Changeling were better turned, such as the characters, for example. Although he is capable of great violence, the killer’s (played by Eddie Alderson) motives aren’t made clear to us and so he never quite rises past the point of one-dimensionality. Sanford Clark is subjugated by the facts of his own actions rather than appear in command of his destiny; in fact, he’s a pitiable creature in spite of the crimes he has committed. Screen Comment favorite John Malkovich plays a pastor with a grudge against the police department. He rushes to lend a hand to Collins and help prop up the case against the LAPD. But Malkovich is a peculiar choice for the role and ends up being closer to his previous character Tom Ripley (Ripley’s Game; 2002) than his Reverend Briegleb. I would have been far better convinced with Malkovich in the role of the killer. A brief mention should be made about the film’s length, as well. Changeling clocks in at over 140 minutes and could therefore use a little trimming. The lack of complexity in the killer, the peculiar casting choice of John Malkovich in the role of the pastor and the overly sappy exterior of Changeling unfortunately speak louder than any of this film’s qualities. A project on this grand a scale deserves better, however, so let’s hope that another trip to the editing room will breathe new life into the material and give it the finish that it deserves.