The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
Bad things shouldn't happen to good people, but they do. The script for "Changeling" by J. Michael Straczynski primarily is taken from court transcripts and newspaper articles of the day, which makes this movie even more frightening. "Frightening" in that bad things clearly can happen to good people who oftentimes don't have the financial power or political clout to refute them.
Clint Eastwood directs Angelina Jolie for the first time in this early 20th century setting. Subtly photographed, the shadows and muted tones set the mood for this drama.
Christine Collins (Jolie) is a single mom working for the telephone company. The most glamorous thing about her life is she gets to roller skate on the job to cover more territory. She keeps a modest home in a tree-lined neighborhood and cares for her son, Walter. One day arriving home late from work, Walter is nowhere to be found and Collins' search for her boy becomes a saga with the corrupt Los Angeles police department.
Because "Changeling" stays true to actual events (no real need to add drama to an already devastating situation), there are unexpected turns and twists to the story. The one constant is this young mother's determination, in spite of almost insurmountable odds, to find her son.
As a director, Eastwood is concise and crisp in his storytelling and Jolie delivers a powerhouse performance, eschewing glamour in costume and make-up. John Malkovich and Jeffrey Donovan play effectively against type. "Changeling" is frustrating and intriguing and worth watching.
"Music of the Heart"/"Small Wonders"
Where do ideas for movies come from? Sometimes they come from a writer's imagination and sometimes from real-life situations. The 1995 documentary "Small Wonders" caught someone's eye and from that true-life story came the fictionalized version "Music of the Heart" that was released in 1999. These two films offer a unique window into the process of filmmaking but even more so into the results an inspiring teacher can produce.
Roberta Guaspari fought long and hard to teach violin to young students living in Harlem. With little funding and scant community support, she forged ahead, winning over parents who knew little about the instrument and students who became so enthusiastic about the results of the program that a lottery was held to determine who would be accepted in the program.
"Small Wonders" focuses on Roberta's teaching approach, several students at various stages of musical development and the unlikely fundraising concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.
"Music of the Heart" follows Roberta's quest with such accuracy you may forget that now you are watching Meryl Streep as the determined instructor. Of course, the fictional portrayal adds more personal struggles for the teacher. The divorced mother of two has a romance (with Aidan Quinn), her mother (Cloris Leachman) expresses concern for her daughter's safety and the school principal (Angela Bassett) adds just the right amount of angst-ridden frustration for Roberta as she looks for funding and defuses irate parents.
Why not watch a double feature? Neither movie is overly long and it's fun to compare. The endings for "Small Wonders" and "Music of the Heart" are nearly identical and wonderfully so.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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