Monday, December 22, 2008

Doubt - B

In theaters. Rated PG-13, 104 minutes. Trailer.

Advertised as a complicated but riveting tale of religious struggles wihtin a 50's era Manhattan Catholic School, Doubt delivered on the basic plot points, but left out the complicated and the riveting. Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars as a Priest that is accused by the rigid school principal (Meryl Streep) of taking liberties with one a black student at the school. Caught in the middle is a timid but spirited Amy Adams as the cowering teacher caught in Streep's web. With its cast and pedigree (much of the There Will Be Blood team was on board here (Roger Deakins, Dylan Tichenor, Scott Rudin)) I was ready for a barn burner, but really just got the barn. Click below for more on DOUBT:

The film is based on writer/director John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer prize winning play of the same name. The Hoffman and Streep characters evolve throughout the course of the picture, with the 'rooting interest' of the audience switchin about 80% of the way through. There are some interesting themes and juxtapositions (mostly about men and women and the dogmatic and the pragmatic), as well as subtle statements about order and discipline. I most enjoyed the fiery interactions between Hoffman and Streep, which were too few to keep the film interesting.

Viola Davis is mesmerizing in a very small role as the potential abused child's mother, showing motherly, gay-motherly, racist-victim, and working class realist emotions all in the course of about 5 minutes. She's a lock to get a best supporting actress nomination. I have never been a big fan of Death Becomes Her's Meryl Streep, but even I can't deny that she stole the film. She portrays a complicated woman fulfilling the 'doubt' sermon laid out by Hoffman in the first scene of the film. Hoffman is great, as usual, giving a textured performance that keeps the audience guessing.

This one is okay, but really drags at the beginning. Lots of pretty pictures and scenes using the gothic and retro-50's Bronx as a backdrop.


Doctor said...

It looks like a basic he said-she said movie, based in the church just so religion, Jesus, and the clergy are belittled and dismissed. Based on the preview I saw before Slumdog today, it looks like a well-written well-acted movie of the week.

Lawyer said...

Religion is actually left out of it, oddly enough. Its underlying thematic struggle is more with dogma versus practicality and order versus chaos. I'm interested to see your slumdog musings.

Priest said...

this one gets a b+ for me, if only barely (and possibly because I had fairly low expectations and have been sorely disappointed of late). i really enjoyed the interactions between all the characters, and, as you noted, streep was wonderful to watch. there was not a misstep from any cast members. I laughed more than I expected to.