Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Straczynski Factor

At Slate, Dana Stevens reviews Changeling, also, like her colleague David Denby, finding more than just a trace of what I consider the most prominent and recurrent flaw in writer J. Michael Straczynski's work:
[...] The Changeling [sic] settles for middlebrow uplift and handsomely conventional melodrama. [...] [The film] doesn't invite the viewer to share in its heroine's disorientation, rage, and grief. Rather, it keeps us at a stately remove, presenting Christine's suffering as a kind of religious tableau.

[...] [L]ike many of Eastwood's late movies, this one takes place in a deeply phony moral universe. How hard is it to like a baby chick better than the hobnailed boot that's stomping on it? As gifted as Angelina Jolie may be, there are only so many different inflections she can give to the monotone refrain, "Please help me find my son." All of Eastwood's rigorous craftsmanship seems wasted on a movie whose message never rises above the bumper-sticker admonition that "mean people suck."
Et cetera, et cetera. Stevens tears apart the roles played by John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie, who, she finds, are horribly miscast, and calls the film "clompingly heavy-handed."

Of course, Stevens seems to attribute the film's shortcomings to its director, Clint Eastwood, and she may well have a point. Eastwood's films - take Million Dollar Baby - have always displayed a tendency towards drippy, one-dimensional moralizing, after all.

So has Straczynski's work, however. I guess Eastwood and Straczynski were made for each other, as far as directing and writing are concerned. It's a shame, really, since both creators can actually be pretty good. By teaming up, it seems, they're bringing out the worst in each other, though.

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