Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Doubt

Based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt is as prevalent as ever, regardless of its setting. The year after JFK was killed, officials at a Catholic school in the Bronx started diving into some very bad things.

Principal Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) begins to suspect Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of some serious misconduct involving the only black student at the school. Sister James (Amy Adams) is the one who first aroused the suspicion, after seeing the disheveled boy return to her class from a visit with Father Flynn.

To say any more, is really giving too much away. This isn’t a great film, but it answers a lot of the questions it asks, only to have them raised yet again. You’re never really sure what to believe, a good credit to give the film.

While the movie feels a little too slow with its deliberate pacing, the performances are top notch. Amy Adams brings a quiet complexity to her shy character, and Philip Seymour Hoffman goes pound off pound in the heated arguments with Streep, he’ll be Heath Ledger’s only real competition for Best Supporting Actor this year. (Note: Hoffman won Best Actor for Capote in 2005, beting Ledger in Brokeback Mountain).

Meryl Streep has been nominated 14 times for an Oscar, with two wins. I’ve questioned sometimes if she deserves the nomination, but forDoubt, she deserves to win. This veteran actress will make your blood chill with her extended monologues and uncertain behavior. She is a heavyweight at the top of her game, what’s better than that?

One, little, small thing.

Doubt does drag a little, sure, but once Viola Davis steps on the screen as the boy’s mother, the fire of fury is ignited. A great character actor, Davis has stolen scenes in World Trade Center, Antwone Fisher, Far From Heaven, and on and on. She’s in only one scene in Doubt but that scene is the best acting she’s ever done. Watch Streep’s face as Davis really tells her about her son. It’s shockingly brilliant. She’ll be the front runner for Best Supporting Actress. Too bad the film can’t match its actors’ bravado. B

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