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Doubt (2008)

A movie directed by John Patrick Shanley

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Quite a Stretch!

  • May 4, 2009
  • by
Rating:
+3
Quite a stretch for Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing a priest, especially since the last film I saw him in -- "Before the Devil Knows you're Dead" -- began with a looong shot of his freckled bare booty! Quite a stretch for Meryl Streep, also, since the last film of hers I saw was 'Mama Mia." I don't 'doubt' for a moment that both stars were thrilled by the opportunity to test their skills. Unfortunately, Hoffman's role wasn't as meaty as it might have been; he had to project an implausible level of 'decency' while sustaining the uglier possibility that 'doubts' about his behavior were justified. He does just that, but nothing more, and the result seems more schematic than realistic. Streep has already proven her talent for playing hateful roles; as the twisted sister in this drama, she overacted in her first scenes. I didn't find her performance convincing until the walking scene with the distraught mother of the "N-gro" child, played superbly by Viola Davis. The pointed non-use of the word "N-gro", by the way, was one of several annoying anachronisms in the film.

I'm assuming everyone who reads this review will already know the basics of the plot. That's the downside of previews; this film would have more impact if you DIDN'T come to it with expectations. My expectations, based on rave reviews, were probably too high not to be let down. Even the DVD box trumpeted the film's "timeless relevance," but the trouble for me is the contrary, the commercial timeliness of the subject of sexual abuse by priests. Frankly, It felt somewhat exploitative; it would take 'quite a stretch' to persuade me that the author of the play on which the film is based didn't choose this subject on the basis of its current marketability. That would not normally be objectionable except that, to my mind, sexual abuse is too painful a subject to be treated for profits.

Another stretch: the film is framed by statements of religious doubt, from Father Flynn's opening sermon to Sister Aloysius's closing breakdown. In other words, this IS a film about loss of faith, about doubts over one's religious certainty, yet those themes are treated glibly, peripherally, while ambiguous doubts are raised about the morality of the priest....

Now just a moment! Could it be that the whole film wasn't about abuse, or intolerance, or the obvious meanings of 'doubt' after all? That it was really, fundamentally, about the inevitable perversion of human beings who take on the sacerdotal role? Becoming a nun seems well on its way to ruining the innocence and kindliness of the young sister/teacher played by Amy Adams; witness her last classroom scene, where she begins to sound a lot like the wicked witch. Wow! That WOULD be a timelessly relevant drama! No wonder it had to be set in 1964, and not the present! But this is the weakness of the film for me; it's a story about a controversial subject that carefully avoids becoming controversial.

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More Doubt reviews
review by . January 22, 2011
(some spoilers)      Doubt has the benefit of a great cast, an incredibly well-written story and good direction from the same man who wrote the play. It's definitely not one for everyone, especially those who need explosions and half-naked women to enjoy a movie. It is very dialogue-heavy, and before seeing this movie I had the benefit of reading the play. The movie definitely maintains faithfulness to the play and I am glad that Hollywood did not ruin the play. Every single …
review by . July 23, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Doubt DVD cover
“A truth that’s told with bad intent… Beats all the lies you can invent.” -William Blake   “It was the schoolboy who said, ‘Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.’” -Mark Twain   There’s a certain quality that a simple work of art possesses that allows it to transcend differences of perspective and opinion, that makes it appealing to people of separate demographics, and that enables people with contrary perceptions to unite …
review by . December 27, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: The camerawork and settings are pretty good      Cons: Weak story, weak characters, weak acting, poor pacing      The Bottom Line: I was ultimately bored.  There was nothing about the story or characters that indicated it was worth any mental/emotional investment.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. To limit the risk of accidental plagiarism, I tend only to read reviews of the …
review by . April 13, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
teaser poster
Based on the award-winning play and adapted for the screen by John Patrick Shanley, who also directs this film, "DOUBT" is a riveting, powerful film full of raw emotional drama that registers as something truly worthy of praise. It has been made outstanding by the exceptional performances that would give you goose bumps and enough meat to talk about after the first viewing. It is just a film almost impossible to ignore with its superb direction, beautiful but simple cinematography--truly …
Quick Tip by . August 26, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Unlike religion, I won't tell you what to believe. But I will tell you, without a doubt, that this movie is great, so go check it out!!!
review by . June 01, 2009
Ok, I admit that I had to be forced to watch this. The idea of priests, nuns and potential child abuse is a toxic mix of boredom that makes My Beautiful Launderette seem like a great night of entertainment. It's definitely not my sort of film, but I'll admit that it doesn't have any dragging scenes or slow moments at all, and ranks as one of the best dramas in a long time. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep (where do actors get their names?) turn in fine performances, …
review by . April 16, 2009
DOUBT is a riveting movie with a terrific cast. The story is set in a Catholic school in the mid-1960s, fixed in time by reference to the assassination of JFK. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is the tough principal who has no time for the popular, progressive priest of the parish, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). When he preaches a sermon on doubt--the lack of moral clarity and how to find your way through it--she sees it as a personal statement of his guilt about something, and warns her nuns …
review by . December 26, 2008
I'll admit that the commercials for this movie didn't make it seem terribly worth seeing. In fact, most of my friends had no idea what I was talking about when I told them I saw this movie. But talk about an exciting drama that somehow leaves you with no solid answers! Despite that, Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman deliver a stunning performance that makes you forget you're in 2008. They take you back to the 1970s where a private Catholic school struggles with staying in the past, or advancing …
review by . May 25, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Sorry, I'm going to be on the other side of this film, thinking it's not that great. To me it felt like a train wreck running in super slow motion. The story is a fairly well known story, there is no doubt about what will happen. Maybe the only glimmer of doubt I had was how explicit would the director be in describing what happened.     Details unfolded so slowly. This felt like a movies from the 20's or 30's or a Victorian novel, where there was a different viewer dynamic; …
review by . February 08, 2009
Short Attention Span Summary (SASS):     1. Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) is the iron-fisted Principal of a Catholic school in the Bronx   2. A sermon by Catholic priest Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) causes her to voice some concerns   3. Young Sister James (Amy Adams) notices that Father Flynn is paying special attention to a male student from a minority group   4. She voices her concerns to Sister Aloysius, who believes her concerns …
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It's always a risk when writers direct their own work, since some playwrights don't travel well from stage to screen. Aided by Roger Deakins, ofNo Country for Old Menfame, who vividly captures the look of a blustery Bronx winter,Moonstruck's John Patrick Shanley pulls it off. IfDoubtmakes for a dialogue-heavy experience, likeThe Crucibleand12 Angry Men, the words and ideas are never dull, and a consummate cast makes each one count. Set in 1964 and loosely inspired by actual events, Shanley focuses on St. Nicholas, a Catholic primary school that has accepted its first African-American student, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), who serves as altar boy to the warm-hearted Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Donald may not have any friends, but that doesn't worry his mother, Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis in a scene-stealing performance), since her sole concern is that her son gets a good education. When Sister James (Amy Adams) notices Flynn concentrating more of his attentions on Miller than the other boys, she mentions the matter to Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), the school's hard-nosed principal. Looking for any excuse to push the progressive priest out of her tradition-minded institution, Sister Aloysius sets out to destroy him, and if that means ruining Donald's future in the process--so be it. Naturally, she's the least sympathetic combatant in this battle, but Streep invests her disciplinarian with wit and unexpected flashes of empathy. Of...
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Details

Genre: Drama, Gay & Lesbian
Release Date: 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: John Patrick Shanley
DVD Release Date: April 07, 2009
Runtime: 1hr 44min
Studio: Miramax
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