Monday, November 3, 2008

Movie recommendation: The Changeling

The Changeling is a powerful film. It tells the long-forgotten story of a working-class woman who brought down the corrupt establishment of Los Angeles 80 years ago.

Angelina Jolie gives a strong, Oscar-worthy performance as Christine Collins, a single mother and one of the first female supervisors at the phone company who refuses to bow down to corrupt police when her son vanished without a trace in 1928.

Los Angeles on the brink of the Great Depression was an epitome of corruption. The police chief, James "Two Guns" Davis, had an officially sanctioned "gun squad" that terrorized opponents with impunity. When Collins' son Walter vanished, the L.A. police were embarrassed by their inability to find him. To squelch public criticism, they tried to convince Collins that a young drifter was her son. When Collins protested, police Captain J.J. Jones labeled her as histrionic and delusional and had her locked in a "psychopathic ward."

Luckily for Collins, her plight came to the attention of Gustav A. Briegleb, a Presbyterian minister and community organizer who regularly lambasted police corruption on his radio show. It was through Briegleb's help that Collins was able to get a lawyer and tell her story. Indeed, although it is not mentioned in the movie, Collins' case led to passage of a law that prohibited police from incarcerating people in psychiatric facilities absent due process.

My review continues here (click to the Amazon page and then scroll down to the customer reviews; please click on "yes" if you find the review helpful).

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