Clint Eastwood came to Cannes Tuesday night and made everyone’s week.
His latest film, "Changeling," would seem impossible on the face of it. Didn’t he just give us "Letters From Iwo Jima" and "Flags of Our Fathers" preceded by "Million Dollar Baby" and "Mystic River"? Indeed he did, and he also has plans to possibly release "Gran Torino" before the end of the year. He’s freakin’ 78 years old.
Did I mention that he wrote the music for and scored "Changeling," too? This is a man who does not know the meaning of retirement.
There’s a strong feeling that in this desultory year of selections, Clint may be headed to the Palme D’or prize on Sunday. Of course, it’s a sticky issue, since Sean Penn is the head juror and he also got his own Oscar for Eastwood’s "Mystic River." Picking this film for the big prize may seem like a conflict of interest to some, but it’s so good I doubt Penn will be concerned about it.
The Cannes audience, which has been free with ovations this year, really went wild at the end of "Changeling." With Clint, star Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt all present, the audience could not stop cheering and clapping. They loved this drama about a woman named Christine Collins (Jolie) in Los Angeles circa 1928 whose child disappears.
Inspired by a true story, Christine balks when the police claim to have found the little boy and he is returned. Only this is not the right kid, and Christine knows it. No one will believe her, especially the corrupt L.A. police. They send her to a mental ward. Meanwhile, other events unfold, leading to the trial and hanging of a pedophile who murdered 20 boys. Eventually these stories intersect, with chilling results and several red herring endings.
The weakest part of the story is Jolie’s sojourn into the cuckoo’s nest. Even though Amy Ryan turns up as a wise fellow patient, Jolie has brought us here before in “Girl Interrupted.” There’s a queasy sense that she’s returning to her greatest serious film success, and Eastwood — who is otherwise pitch perfect — is a little out of tune with scenes of Ryan punished with electroshock by evil doctors.
There are some plot holes, too, that could stand little fixes before “Changeling” comes to theaters. One of them was pronounced: if the replacement child really is a fake, one way Jolie could convince the police would be to show them a photo. She never does, which seems odd. A photo of little missing Walter is used later, as a plot point.
But we’re supposed to suspend disbelief, which is not hard to do. Jolie — despite looking at times like an emaciated supermodel — is nevertheless riveting. There are no histrionics, and I can’t recall more than one time when she cries. Otherwise her performance as a single, powerless mother with few resources is the model of restraint. She is often sublime.
Eastwood is also great with his supporting cast. John Malkovich — his buddy from the making of “In the Line of Fire” — is superb as a radio preacher who rails against the LAPD and takes up Collins’ cause. He is really the only other big name in the film.
The rest of the cast is populated with fine character actors, including Geoffrey Pierson as Jolie’s lawyer, Peter Gerety as a sniveling police shrink, Frank Wood as Christine’s boss and Jeffrey Donvan as the thick-headed lieutenant who would rather accept a substitute child con artist instead of continuing an investigation.
A key performance by 15-year-old Eddie Alderson of “One Life to Live” is strong enough to put him on the map as well. Nothing even in that crazy soap opera could have prepared him for this material.
Is “Changeling” Oscar material? The word around here is definitely yes. Jolie — who’s about to give birth here in the South of France to twins — will be a glowing new mother of 6-month-olds by the time her nomination is announced in January.
By the way, “Changeling” is a movie no one except Angelina wanted to make. She convinced Clint and Universal Pictures’ Ron Meyer, who set it up with Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Kudos to them, but Meyer must be exhausted. He’s the head of almost every department at Universal!
When “Indiana Jones” opens Thursday, be sure not to miss those first couple of minutes.
As an inside joke, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas turn the mountain in the Paramount logo into a molehill. Get it? As in “Let’s not take this movie too seriously” and make a mountain out of a molehill.
A mole pops out of the sand and leads us into the opening sequence. He returns a couple of times, looking suspiciously like the rat at the end of Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” ... or perhaps Fievel from one of the first lamented DreamWorks movies, “An American Tail.”
You know it’s the second week of Cannes if Sharon Stone has arrived — and she has. Gorgeous as ever, Stone walked the red carpet last night for “Changeling,” then got to work preparing for Thursday night’s amfAR dinner.
Madonna is joining her as co-host this year, but I’m not sure if she’s ever witnessed Stone’s famous auction to raise money for the charity. I asked Sharon Tuesday night what her plans were for Madonna.
“Oh, I’m thinking of some interesting things,” she replied with a sly smile. Madonna should get ready — she herself could get auctioned off for the cause. ...
Meanwhile Madonna appears Wednesday night on “Nightline” with Cynthia McFadden. They taped the interview Tuesday at the Carlton Hotel. After the interview, Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie ambled over to the famous Felix restaurant on the Croisette for dinner a deux. They sat way in the back at a corner table, Madonna’s back to the half-empty eatery, so she missed stripper Dita Von Teese and her mother, who were eating up front. The couple’s poor bodyguard sat a table away, sipping water. Madonna wore black gloves throughout the meal. ...
”The Departed” producer Graham King (remember — he was robbed last year at the Hotel duCap) is taking a bunch of execs to Moscow Wednesday morning on a chartered plane to see the Manchester United in the World Cup soccer match. They’ll all be back by 4 a.m. Cannes time Thursday.
Miramax’s Daniel Battsek — subject of unfounded rumors Tuesday about a possible jump to Paramount — is going with another group. He deserves a break after a solid week in darkened screening rooms. ...
Lots of talk about Penn’s worst nightmares come true, as wife, Robin Wright Penn, and apparent winter girlfriend Petra Nemcova have come face to face at several events. Petra is still here. Wright has returned to shooting a film in Connecticut. ...
Spike Lee, prickly as ever, is here. What’s he doing here?
“I’ve been coming here for more than 20 years, since ‘She’s Gotta Have It’!” he snapped, then took off. He could have told us he was showing an eight-minute reel of his new film about African-American Marines in World War II. ...
Clint Eastwood, his wife, Dina, Jolie and Pitt all ate at the very exclusive seaside shack Tetou in Antibes on Monday night. The paparazzi went crazy.
Tetou, which mortals needn’t bother calling, is famous for its bouillabaisse. You can make the same if not better from Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean cookbooks ... and it costs a lot less!