A sci-fi writer (Babylon 5) looks at LA in the 1920s as though it were another planet — and it is. A young mother of a missing child refuses to accept the obvious imposter the LAPD insists is her lost son. Lacking fingerprints, DNA evidence, or any other “scientific” method of identification, the story becomes a battle of credibility between a police captain and a single mother.  She has none.

This is one of those tales in which the most bizarre things (the ease with which a woman without a man to protect her could be confined to a mental institution, or the roller-skating phone company managers)  are true, and only the stuff that seems normal to us (the woman’s angry confrontation with a police psychiatrist) are fictional. At the end of the day, Clint Eastwood, that most unlikely of directors, has created an interesting and absorbing story that offers more subtlety and truth about the gender relationships of an earlier era than many of the feminist polemics that been coming out of Hollywood in recent years.

Angelina Jolie is OK in the title role, but I was unduly distracted by her artifically enhanced lips.  Many of the actors in the featured roles were outstanding, particularly John Malkovich as the radio televangelist who takes an interest in the case, and Michael Kelly as the LAPD’s One Honest Cop.

But the real star of the film is 1920s Los Angeles, a lost landscape known to us only from the movies (Chinatown, Roger Rabbit), and here presented with real trolleys.  No CG.


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