Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Doubt is one of those power house films. You know the kind - it usually a period piece (meaning it takes place in a different time than now), it involves subject matter that is equally relevant to today as it was to the time it takes place in, and stars a lot of award winning actors. Boasting four Oscar nominated actors in lead roles (Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams). In fact, Doubt is the kind of movie that screams - Come and watch me! Even if the plot isn't that great, you know you'll at least get great performances!

The film centers around Sister James (Adams) and Sister Aloysius (Streep). Sister James is a teacher at a local NYC Catholic school, where Sister Aloysius presides as the stern, take no prisoners principal. She's the kind of woman all of the students are afraid of, while Adams' Sister James is much more light hearted and loving person. They both work with Father Flynn (Hoffman), who oversees the local parish, and teaches gym class at the school. When a young boy named Donald Miller (played by Joseph Foster) is called into a private meeting with Father Flynn, Sister James expects that some wrong may have been visited on Donald by Father Flynn (they never say it, but the insinuation is molestation). Sister Aloysius, having heard Sister James's concerns, makes it her mission, with absolutely no evidence, to nail Father Flynn to the wall for what he may, or may not, have done.

Doubt is a good film. Adapted from his stage play, writer/director John Patrick Shanley brings several amazing actors together to express the realities of living life in doubt of those around you and doubt in their capacity to do only good. Adams' performance as the eternally optimistic Sister James, whose very faith is shaken to the core by this whole incident, is noteworthy, as well as Viola Davis's performance as a mother trying to protect her son long enough for him to be able find his bearings before he is thrust out into the harsh reality of a world that will hate him on multiple levels for what he is (this is the 1960's, you must remember, when many prejudices were still the norm). Philip Seymour Hoffman creates a masterful performance as Father Flynn, never revealing the truth and leaving everyone, in the end, to wonder what, if anything, happened. Streep, as Sister Aloysius, is terrifying. Shanley has done an amazing job at translating his play to the big screen, though their are moments when you really do see how pieces of the story meant for the stage did not exactly translate as well onto the big screen. I enjoyed watching this film, and that's why I said it good, but not great. Honestly, I'm note sure I would be overly excited about watching it again, but it was good to see for the first time.

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