Thursday, January 22, 2009

Film: 20 Movies in 20 Days: Doubt

By Mr. Pink

John Patrick Shanley has directed one film prior to "Doubt" and that was the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle "Joe Vs. the Volcano." So, I don't know about you but I was predisposed to like Mr. Shanley's latest cinematic romp. You could imagine my surprise when Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not play a rich business man given a few weeks to live but a priest who is accused who molesting a 12 year old boy.

"Doubt,"based on Mr. Shanley's award winning play of the same name, is the story of Father Flynn (Hoffman) a progressive clergyman at a school principled by decidedly non progressive Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep). When Father Flynn holds a private meeting with twelve year old Donald Miller in the rectory and Sister Aloysius suspects the worst.

Let's get my bias right out of the way. I think Phillip Seymour Hoffman is our best working actor and my opinion is not changed here. His father Flynn is a mosaic of different character traits. A man who is simultaneously altruistic and possibly monstrous. Hoffman pulls both off with his usual deftness.

Streep is as solid as expected. Which is not to say she should be taken for granted. Her excellence is just so common that I can't bring myself to gush over her. She is fierce, funny, and as multi layered as you'd expect.

Amy Adams as Sister James brings her usual adorable nature but it is framed with a sadness and timidness that we don't usually see. She pulls off some of the most difficult moments in the film and she seems at home in both the comedic and dramatic elements she is asked to pull off.

But now we get to the last and possibly best performance in the entire film. Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller. She really only has one scene but in that one scene she does something that some might think impossible. She out acts Meryl Streep. I'm talking Joker in the interrogation room out acts her. Ms. Davis is the absolute best thing about "Doubt" and that is no small statement. Her time on screen is short but it is gut wrenching and is worth the price of admission alone.

All the ingredients are there for "Doubt" to be a great film. It has two of our best working actors, a powerful supporting performance by a relative unknown, a blooming star doing really solid work and wonderful source material. But the question is do these ingredients equal a great film. To be succinct, yes. "Doubt" is a movie that grows on you the farther you get away from it. I'm two days out and I like it more than I did yesterday.

If nothing else "Doubt" manages to capture the verbosity and literary panache that is so prevalent in the world of theater and so lacking in the land of cinema. It is nice to see great actors put opposite each other and let loose on a great script.

See This Movie.

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