Cannes update: Eastwood scores…again

Posted by · 6:35 am · May 20th, 2008

Well, I’m pleased to report that my initial doubts about Clint Eastwood’s latest, “Changeling,” were obviously unfounded.

His Angelina Jolie-starrer, based on a true story about a child’s kidnapping in 1920s Los Angeles, premiered this morning at Cannes, and, judging from the reviews so far, the man’s impeccable recent run of form hasn’t hit a snag yet. (Incidentally, both Jeff Wells and Screen Daily report that the film has been retitled “The Exchange,” a far less intriguing title, in my opinion. However, some trade papers are still going by the original title in the reviews, so I’m sticking with that for now.)

Clearly, however, the film’s a stunner by any name. Todd McCarthy’s rave for Variety puts it thus:

A thematic companion piece to “Mystic River,” but more complex and far-reaching, “Changeling” impressively continues Clint Eastwood’s great run of ambitious late-career pictures … Graced by a top-notch performance from Angelina Jolie, the Universal release looks poised to do some serious business upon tentatively scheduled opening late in the year.

McCarthy also puts to rest the rumours that film was a foray into hysterical genre territory, which I admit had me concerned for its awards prospects:

Fears that the story is now destined to veer off into “The Snake Pit” or, given Jolie’s presence, “Girl, Interrupted” looney-bin horrors prove largely unfounded, despite a couple of brief electroshock scenes. Rather, this is where the picture really spreads its wings, as ramifications of this tragic but unexceptional case seep through the police department, the legal system, the medical establishment and City Hall in entirely unexpected ways.

The word on the other side of the Atlantic is just as hot. In his Screen Daily review, Mike Goodridge minces no words abouts the film’s quality or its prospects:

Beautifully produced and guided by Eastwood’s elegant, unostentatious hand, it also boasts a career-best performance by Angelina Jolie who has never been this compelling. Like “Mystic River” in 2003, it should go all the way from the Palais to the Academy Awards next March.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt also loves the film, but he is more guarded about its prospects:

The combination of Eastwood and Jolie would ordinarily mean boffo box-office, but “Changeling” is a tricky movie to market as it touches on every parent’s greatest fear … Universal’s challenge is to make the film’s concerns connect with an audience more interested in the kind of police corruption usually found in Scorsese films.

He may yet be right, but nonetheless, it’s clear we have our first bona fide contender of the year here. Lately, it has seemed that all Clint needs to do to win the Academy over is not screw up, but this sounds pretty special all the same – deeper and more searching than the initial pitch led me to expect. It seems to be an all-rounder too: McCarthy in particular swoons over the pic’s tech credits, and while it’s evidently a terrific showcase for Jolie, there are great notices across the board for the supporting players, which include such Academy-friendly names as Amy Ryan and John Malkovich. (Now there’s a guy who’s overdue for some Oscar love.) With my humble pie duly swallowed, I’m very excited about this one.

It’s been a good 24 hours for the Americans at Cannes, meanwhile: James Gray’s “Two Lovers” may not have generated the same level of buzz, but it has received some warm reviews nonetheless. The Hollywood Reporter calls the low-key romance “a throwback to the days when love in the movies involved the mind as well as the heart,” and even sees some awards potential in it. Not everyone is as keen, with Screen Daily calling it “well-crafted and ably acted but never especially moving,” though they join in the general chorus of approval for Joaquin Phoenix’s lead turn:

Phoenix is the best thing about Two Lovers. His character Leonard is the kind of ordinary Joe so beloved of golden age American television drama and 1950s movies like the Oscar-winning Marty. Phoenix effectively captures all aspects of the character from his shy, boyish charm to unsettling desperation in his quest for love.

So, as some of the more revered world auteurs in the competition have stalled or stumbled, it seems the Yanks are holding up their end of the bargain so far. Here’s hoping this augurs well for Steven Soderbergh (“Che”) and Charlie Kaufman (my own personal pony, “Synecdoche, New York.”)

→ 11 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

11 responses so far

  • 1 5-20-2008 at 8:03 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I must say, though, I don’t like the title change to “The Exchange.” Really looking forward to this film, though.

  • 2 5-20-2008 at 8:09 am

    Joel said...

    His films are never simplistic. That’s what I love about Clint.

  • 3 5-20-2008 at 8:23 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Agreed, Kris – “The Exchange” sounds awfully generic. The film is obviously anything but.

  • 4 5-20-2008 at 12:19 pm

    John Foote said...

    The man’s films are like those of the late, great John Huston, lean and powerful — he just keeps getting better — could he win a third directing Oscar for this?? Sounds like it…and actors thrive under his direction…gotta love Clint — remember the seventies, when he was Dirty Harry and acted with an ape? Who would have thought that actor would become one of the greatest directors in modern cinema?

  • 5 5-20-2008 at 1:13 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Actually, I would wager that the seeds of his minimailstic artistry were planeted in his first directorial effort, “Play Misty for Me,” way back in the 70s. But even still, Eastwood is as uneven as Spike Lee. I keep waiting for another “True Crime” or the like. After all, his worst film is only 6 years behind us.

    I’m glad to see he’s on such a roll, lately, even if I find “Million Dollar Baby” to be one of the most overrated films of the decade.

  • 6 5-20-2008 at 2:26 pm

    Joseph said...

    We have the first real Oscar contender on our hands, not to mention one directed by the masterful and ever-improving Clint Eastwood, and I couldn’t be more excited. I really can’t wait for this one!

  • 7 5-20-2008 at 3:22 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The interesting play here will be from Universal. Of course, no one really knows how big a stick “Frost/Nixon” carries, but there could be some real decision making taking place.

    Last year it was, not to simplify it, Imagine vs. Uni in house, with Imagine repping “American Gangster” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” repping the true “in house” quotient (again, not to over-simplify). I wonder how things will play out, because “Changeling”/”The Exchange” looks to be a formidable contender.

    Then the question becomes — what role will “Gran Torino” play in all of this?

  • 8 5-20-2008 at 4:47 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Again, Kris, I agree on so many counts: “Play Misty for Me” remains, in my opinion, one of the Clintster’s finest films. The labels of “America’s greatest living director” really annoy me, though – as great as much of his output has been, I don’t think anyone responsible for “True Crime”, “Absolute Power” or “The Rookie” deserves that title.

    As for “Gran Torino”, I have absolutely no idea. I don’t much like the sound of the film, but then I didn’t like the sound of “Changeling” either, so what do I know?

  • 9 5-20-2008 at 4:56 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I have a weird feeling about “Gran Torino.” Sounds like a huge acting possibility for the old coot.

  • 10 5-21-2008 at 5:57 am

    Nick Plowman said...

    “The Exchange” sounds like a crappy rom-com title, one that would have fit perfectly with the film “The Holiday.”

    I hope the title does not change, because Changeling is completely un-generic, just as the film sounds like it is, as Guy said.

    I don’t know about “Gran Torino” either.

  • 11 5-21-2008 at 9:39 am

    Silencio said...

    Now that I’m more familiar with the plot of the film, I think The Exchange is a brilliant, nasty title. Very unsettling. The main question is how much do they want the audience to know before seeing it? If the “exchange” is intended to be a surprise, well then they’ve played their hand. But otherwise, I think it works MUCH better than “The Changeling.” That title did nothing for me. It sounds like a Sci-fi.