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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Film Review: Doubt

Doubt is another Broadway play I didn't see, but really wanted too. When I heard they were making it into a movie I was a little skeptical. New characters and new story lines usually accompany a film adaptation and the heart of a story can be lost. That is not the case in this film adaptation. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. The steller cast delivers and John Patrick Shanley's direction is key to the success of this film. The play and the film was his through and through and I am glad the studio didn't try to get a more commercial director to direct this sensitive subject. Shanley is a experienced writer with a very few directed films on his plate. I am sure he primarily worked with the actors and let the great Roger Deakins set up and photograph this beautiful looking film. The three main actors in this film Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams are all amazing and worth the price of admission. Hoffman is Father Flynn who is suspected of molesting a alienated boy named Donald Muller at their school. Hoffman is very likable and you find yourself rooting for his character throughout. Amy Adams is the naive Sister James who has suspicions of Father Flynn but is not sure if it's true or just a witch hunt. Adam's Sister James is the audiences conscience. She expresses what the viewer feels, and like the viewer caught in the middle. Streep gives one of the best performances of her career as Sister Beauvier, the head Nun and principal of the school, who attacks the problem directly without any doubt of his guilt. She is a mean spirited disciplinary who is feared by everyone and you get the feeling that her ways are outdated and she is threatened by the changes of the church.The writing is amazing and keeps the audience guessing the Fathers guilt until the very end. At the beginning I was on the Father's side as it seemed that Sister Beauivier was wanting to expose him because he was a young man who wanted change. It seems like a Witch Hunt from the beginning as Streep's character puts doubts in people's heads because of one of Father Flynn's unorthodox sermons about doubt. Sister James adds to the fire when she tells Sister Beauvier that Donald was in a private conference with Father Flynn, smelled of alcohol and acted strangely. As the story progresses you find out the church is a Boys Club that never punishes their own and that she has dealt with this situation before to no avail. The film plants seeds that shows that Sister Beauivier is doing this for all the right reasons, and not personal gain or self preservation. Sister Beauivier and James confront Father Flynn and his excuse is a believable one. You still doubt his guilt until the very end when Hoffman and Streep have a heated confrontation that is the best scene in the film. He is confused at why she finds it so easy to believe he is a child molester and her reason is because of the reaction she saw on a different boys face,William London, when he grabbed him sometime back. Flynn is shocked by this flimsy reason, but she also says she knows his past because she talked to a nun at his previous parish. Flynn is outraged because she didn't follow procedure and talk to a priest. At this point is when the viewer begins to see his guilt. Sister Beauivier went against the Boys Club Code and this causes him to call the Bishop and quit. You are still not 100% sure of his guilt until his goodbye sermon and you see William London with a smile on his face. The last scene is between Adams and Streep, and Streep tells her she lied about the nun because she knew this would confirm his guilt. Also she has discovered Father Flynn was at another school and in fact promoted and that the Monsignor did not believe her and the cycle continues. Sister Beauivier breaks down and says she now has doubts. Although she doesn't say what she doubts, it's obvious it's her faith in a religion that would allow a crime like molestation continue. Powerful one of the years best. 4 out of 5 Stars

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