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Cannes 08: “Changeling.”

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05212008_changeling.jpgA cloche-wearing madonna, Angelina Jolie is the porcelain personification of trembling courage and devoted motherhood in “Changeling.” As Christine Collins, entire scenes exist solely for the world’s most famous collector of international orphans to allow her eyes to well up as, clutching her hands over her mouth, she gives in to despair of ever finding Walter, her kidnapped son. Other times, the facade shatters and she shrieks “He’s not my son! He’s not my son!” Or “Did you kill my son?! Did you kill my son?!” Or “No! No! No!” Someone actually refers to her as having “moxie,” which is something you were allowed to say without airquotes in the 1920s, when the film is set, but which isn’t so accurate — mostly she picturesquely suffers and droops and then lifts her chin and enlists the help offered her by those who’d like to use her case as a weapon against the corrupt Los Angeles Police Department.

“Changeling” is director Clint Eastwood at his most manipulative, leagues beyond “Million Dollar Baby.” The film’s based on the actual Wineville Chicken Murders, in which Gordon Stewart Northcott kidnapped and killed at least three boys on his ranch in what’s now Mira Loma. One of the boys was 10-year-old Walter Collins, who was at the heart of a scandal surrounding the case — after he was reported missing, the L.A.P.D. found another child who claimed to be Walter. When Christine Collins, Walter’s mother, denied that boy was her son, the police had her sent to the county psych ward. It’s an intriguing set-up, none the least because, as the film shows it, Christine at first dazedly lets herself be convinced that the boy could hers after all. But “Changeling” can’t allow its characters to appear to be made of flesh and blood — Jeffrey Donovan, as the police captain who finds “Walter” eventually has Christine committed, might as well be vamping in a black cape. John Malkovich is ever a-tremble with indignation as the crusading Reverend Briegleb, who comes to Christine’s rescue. Christine is a saintly single mother with a spotless house and a modish but demure wardrobe who wakes up already in full make-up, who tirelessly dotes on her darling child and who supports them both as a skillful supervisor at the phone company switchboard. “Changeling” doesn’t want to tell a story — it wants to be a portrait of a conquering heroine trampling on injustice, and not that of a realistic and wronged woman who was in danger of getting ground in the gears of a dishonest and powerful organization. Given that Christine’s great moments of triumph are those of enduring mistreatment, however, the intermittent faux feminist sentiments seem drearily misplaced. And like most true stories, “Changeling”‘ has no clean ending, struggles through what feels like an anticlimax in search of closure and settling on an ill-favored exchange of dialogue that I’d have called the worst in the festival until I saw “Surveillance” this morning (more on that in a bit).

With its star, its varnished vintage appearance and the ability to generate bewildering reviews like this one, “Changeling” is a picture all but created to win Academy Awards. Maybe it will, but hell if it deserves any. For the awards show clip, I’d suggest the scene where Christine visits the killer in prison, unnecessary to the plot and the film as a whole except as an opportunity to show off more of Jolie’s histrionic emoting. It might as well be useful for something.

“Changeling” will be released in the U.S. by November 7th.

[Photo: “Changeling,” Universal Pictures, 2008]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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