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DOUBT

  Publicity Stills of
"Doubt"
(Courtesy of BVI)
 
 

Genre: Drama
Director: John Patrick Shanley
Cast: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Alice Drummond, Audrie J. Neenan, Carrie Preston, Bridget Megan Clark
RunTime: 1 hr 44 mins
Released By: BVI
Rating: PG (Some Disturbing Elements)
Official Website: http://www.doubt-themovie.com/

Opening Day: 29 January 2009

Synopsis:

John Patrick Shanley brings his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play to the screen as a gripping story about the quest for truth, the forces of change, and the devastating consequences of blind justice in an age defined by moral conviction.

It's 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A vibrant, charismatic priest, Father Flynn (Academy Award® winner Philip Seymour Hoffman), is trying to upend the schools' strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep), the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the community, and indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James (Academy Award® nominee Amy Adams), a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her guilt-inducing suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without a shard of proof besides her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn which threatens to tear apart the community with irrevocable consequence.

Movie Review:


What would you do if you're faced with seemingly unfamiliar circumstances? There are no clear options in front of you, and the outcomes of each choice appear murky. You cannot afford a perpetual stalemate, and so you take that leap of faith, hopeful that it's the right thing to do. Each of the lead characters here tussle with Doubt, and the film, based upon director John Patrick Shanley's own play which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is a wonderful verbal thrust and parry amongst the characters, where a myriad of themes involving morality, power and religion.

Doubt might seem like the serious and unfunny distant cousin of The Office, as Im pretty sure you can easily identify the characters here with real life office counterparts. At the helm is a supervisor with poor human relations and EQ, with the mentality that assumes the role automatically commands, and demands respect. Instructions dished out are law, and the iron fist rules above everyone. Meryl Streep's Sister Aloysius as principal takes on a No nonsense approach to education and discipline. She's traditional to a T, and balks at anything she personally deems to have a detrimental effect to the power that she wields. She's authority that everyone loves to hate, and Streep portrays this somewhat caricature role with aplomb.

And of course such a fear stems from the growing popularity of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Father Brendan. Being the new kid on the block whose progressive ways threaten to bring about changes to order and establishment, which puts him on a default and direct collision course with Sister Aloysius. Even his sermon (do pay attention to what he preaches as they're really packed between the spoken lines) on the theme of doubt gets plenty of unwarranted speculation from which she hopes to find some smoking gun evidence of hanky-panky to dismiss him from their holy grounds.

Opportunity arises from Amy Adams' painfully nave Sister James, who provides the perfect catalyst when she takes on the office whistle blower's role in alerting Sister Aloysius to some possible misconduct between Father Brendan and one of the schoolboys, thus setting the stage for some polite confrontation to turn nasty with each taking calculated moves defending their position and actions, and taking offense and accusing the other of foul play.

And bringing the characters to life are two thespian powerhouses with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Amy Adams in a support role watching from the sidelines how these two fine actors tear at each other in tit-for-tat fashion. The film is paced like a chess game, and while slow, there were pitch perfect moments that will perk you up, especially when both Streep and Hoffman have a go at each, as with studying the nuances of both actors for clues. You'll also find yourself constantly judging the actions and reactions of everyone, thanks to John Patrick Shanley's story which sucks you in and involves you, even experiencing the same doubts that the characters find themselves in.

If you take a step back, it's really like going through any experience one would probably have, either in dishing it out or being in the unfortunate receiving end, of jumping to conclusions, holding personal grudges against others for petty reasons, being intolerant of someone else but at the same time being hypocritical about it, scheming to have people discredited and to get rid of them, and the likes.

For those who prefer their movies in open and shut format, you're likely to feel a little frustrated given that youve worked through the movie, but having Doubt living up to its name, you're likely to leave the cinema having plenty of thoughts swirling in your mind, which provides for some never-ending discourse after the end credits roll. But that ensures longevity of the film and story, doesn't it? One thing's for sure it provides for excellent character study, with everyone having to undergo change and emerge quite different at heart after the events rocked their very souls.

Movie Rating:



(Doubt is certainly boosted by fine, powerful performances all round)

Review by Stefan Shih

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