by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Meryl Streep as SISTER ALOYSIUS BEAUVIER
Philip Seymour Hoffman as FATHER BRENDAN FLYNN
Amy Adams as SISTER JAMES
Viola Davis as MRS. MILLER
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley
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In a conservative Catholic parish in 1964 Brooklyn, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) suspects that Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has been acting inappropriately with one of the altar boys. She struggles with confronting him, discussing the possible indiscretions with other nuns and even bringing the problem to light to the child’s mother.
Based on John Patrick Shanley’s play “Doubt: A Parable,” this film received five Academy Award nominations, including four for its main cast members.
WHAT I LIKED
I’m not Catholic. I’m not from Brooklyn. And I wasn’t even born in 1964. So, a lot of the relatability for this movie is lost. Still, “Doubt” did an amazing job making the viewer feel like he or she went to a Catholic school in 1964 Brooklyn. It also gave a unique perspective to this setting, telling the story from the clergy’s point of view rather than the students (which seems to be the focus of most Catholic school films... and not just those kinds... get your mind out of the gutter!).
With its roots in the theaters, this film was made for actors, and the cast does a very fine job. Even Meryl Streep, whom I personally think is overrated, carries the film well. Amy Adams shines as well, with Philip Seymour Hoffman managing to pull a range of emotions from the audience – from warm friendliness to potential disgust. The only sticking point on the acting front was Viola Davis, who did a fine job but hardly deserved the award nominations for such a short-lived role.
“Doubt” isn’t one of those films to be taken lightly. It’s not something to watch while you’re making dinner or for background noise while cleaning house. Rather, it’s a film to enjoy while you take the time to watch it. It might be a bit of a slow starter, and it definitely takes its time allowing the story to unravel slowly. However, it’s definitely worth a look, and a bit of discussion.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Living in Ohio during award season, it’s not at all uncommon to hear the buzz for the top award movies before they ever reach the Buckeye state. For months, I had heard the talk about “Doubt” long before we got a chance to see it, even in an early press screening. So with this in mind, the film had quite a build up and a lot of expectations to live up to.
For me, it didn’t quite meet those expectations. However, this has happened before with late-release award movies like “Million Dollar Baby” and “Letters from Iwo Jima.” “Doubt” is a fine film filled with excellent performances, but with all the other high-level press outlets calling it one of the best movies of the year, it was hard to not be let down a bit.
I can see how this film was a spectacular play, but it did seem to be a bit soft in the theaters (and on home video). “Doubt” is meant to make you contemplate and spark discussion, but I’ve never been a big fan of the purposefully ambiguous ending, of which this film is a shining example.
Writer/director John Patrick Shanley offers his voice to the commentary, along with some lengthy discussions in the “Doubt: From Stage to Screen” featurette. Additional spotlight featurettes include “Scoring Doubt,” “The Cast of Doubt” and “The Sisters of Charity.”
The most interesting elements of the special features are the look at who Shanley’s inspirations were for the nuns in the film as well as the spotlight on the actual Sister of Charity.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Award film junkies, theater fans and anyone catching up on their 2009 Oscar performances.