Directed by John Patrick Shanley
Starring Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis
When you consider that the new film “Doubt” features the best acting ensemble of the year, a screenplay that’s based on a Tony Award-winning theatrical production and subject matter that will certainly engender lively debate, I am a bit surprised that other than Meryl Streep, the film hasn’t been getting much attention at the year-end award shows. So let me do my part to help raise awareness of this superb film. With five Academy Award nominations (four in the major acting categories and one for screenplay), there’s no “Doubt” that this is a must-see for anybody who’s a fan of serious cinema, and my pick as the number three film of 2008.
Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, “Doubt” plays out in a Catholic school in the mid-’60s. Sister Aloyuious (Streep) is the hard-as-nails nun who runs the school, and she’s not at all happy about the carefree ways of Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who has just transferred into the parish. She holds her tongue even while she bristles at his sermons, but when another nun (Amy Adams) points out that Father Flynn has taken a special interest in one of the altar boys, Sister Aloyuious starts to wonder if there is anything improper going on between the priest and the young boy.
Contemporary audiences will also wonder if they are witnessing a dramatized child abuse scandal, but to the film’s credit, it never tries to prove whether the priest is guilty or innocent, leaving the audience to form their own opinions. I’m constantly amazed by how different audiences interpret the film’s clues and come to radically differing opinions. More to the point, I’m thankful for any film that recognizes that audiences aren’t mindless automatons and allows them to use their own minds and emotions while watching a film.
And while I’m in such a thankful mood, I must point out that this cast is nothing short of amazing. All four of the principal players have been nominated for Oscar gold, and they would all be more than deserving of a win (for the record, I think that Streep and Viola Davis have the only realistic shot).
The bottom line is that when a great cast is coupled with a meaty screenplay, solid production design and a controversial subject matter, the result is a film that will both challenge and satisfy discriminating audiences. There’s no “Doubt” that this is one of the year’s best films.
Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and weekly on KFDM-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at email@example.com.
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