This is my fault -- and probably yours, too: When Clint Eastwood tried his hand at comedy ("Paint Your Wagon," "Bronco Billy" and "Any Which Way But Loose"), I didn't buy ONE ticket, did you? As he drifted into darker waters ("Mystic River," "Million Dollar Baby" and "Letters from Iwo Jima"), he was identified as a brilliant filmmaker and thus encouraged (by Oscar) to continue his efforts along that line. For this, his latest outing (based on a true story), he stays darker, believe me!

Once again we are pulled into a different time and place: this time it is 1920s Los Angeles. Angelina Jolie ("A Mighty Heart" and "Wanted") is a single mother of a nine-year-old boy, played by Gattlin Griffith. She works as a supervisor for Pacific Telephone, at a time when the switchboard rooms were so long the supervisors had to wear roller skates. As a former phone company employee, I love that authentic little touch. She and her boy ride the electric streetcar to school and to work (ah, the good old days!) and she wears a hat and gloves whenever she goes out! I should emphasize that the production design, e.g., the clothing, vehicles and street scenes, is masterful.

Her son goes missing and is gone for many long, grief-stricken months; then a boy who claims to be him is delivered to her by a Los Angeles police captain, played by Jeffrey Donovan ("Burn Notice" and "Come Early Morning"). She immediately insists that the child isn't hers, but he asks her not to make a scene in front of the mob of reporters and photographers who have convened, so she docilely allows her picture to be taken with the boy. As she continues to claim the boy isn't hers, they explain that a child can change a lot in a short period of time and insist that she take him home with her. She reluctantly obeys, but begs them to continue searching for her son, just the same. The police start to view her as a hysteric and an unfit mother because she appears to reject her own son, who, in reality, is three or four inches shorter than her boy, and is circumcised!

She is approached by an activist minister, portrayed by John Malkovich ("Burn After Reading" and "Being John Malkovich"), who is determined to uncover rampant corruption and incompetence in the LAPD, so she feels empowered enough that she tries again. This time, the frustrated captain has her thrown into a mental ward and things go downhill from there...

In my opinion, Jolie is almost grotesque, her lips don't look real and the makeup folks persist in using scarlet lipstick on them, which only emphasizes how unnatural they look. We are subjected to grueling scenes of profound grief and rage, a few horrific situations and a poignant ending. If you have ANY trouble hearing dialogue in theatres, do yourself a favor and wait for the DVD. The movie is excellent (but NOT enjoyable), and deucedly difficult to hear. I would put this down to my hearing impairment, but I have been treated to several movies lately in which I heard every single word, so it is NOT my hearing!

While you are waiting for the DVD to come out, you might want to sample a couple of Eastwood's comedies...