January 6, 2009 by Zack
“Doubt” is most talked about because of the acting, and that’s just. This is what you’d probably call an “actor’s” movie. These are movies with typically weak or thin plot lines, and only serves to promote the acting jobs of A-list actors/actresses who want Oscars.
I think that may be a bit unfair to “Doubt” because the movie is *about* something, not just an excuse to put some of the best actors together in the same movie. Now, that does not mean that the acting isn’t superior to the story, but the themes of invulnerability, the power of conviction over proof, and of course…doubt itself, is very well done. Writer/director John Patrick Shanley does a fine job of tying the film together with a nice MacGuffin that isn’t an object, but a suspicion. Meryl Streep is outstanding (may steal the Oscar from Jolie) as Sister Aloysius, the er…suspicious allowishus, literally.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays Father Flynn, a charismatic and upbeat minister who wants to spread gospel about love and understanding, and begins the movie with a speech about how doubt can bring people together in a time of uncertainty and chaos (the film takes place one year after the Kennedy assassination). He builds a bond with one of the altar boys, the only black boy at the school, because he feels sorry for his disposition, and knows he has no friends. Sister James, played wonderfully and emotionally by Amy Adams, is the teacher who first notices a “change” in behavior of the boy, named Donald, after a private meeting with Flynn. He also has alcohol on his breath, due to an incident where he was caught “stealing wine” from the altar, in which case Donald would have to relinquish his altar boy status.
When Sister James tells Aloysius, she immediately is convinced that Flynn has abused Donald and wants to get rid of Father Flynn immediately. Sister James doesn’t know what to believe, as she’s more of the innocent and naive, and positive minded type. But Aloysius, who rules the Parish that they all belong to with an iron fist (she is principal of the school), knows without a doubt that he abused the boy. She thinks it’s for the well being of Donald to get rid of Flynn, ignoring the fact that Flynn has been the only one who has given the boy any attention at all.
There is never any evidence given, nor is there a scene in which Father Flynn has shown his guiltiness. The film, like the play it is based on (also by Shanley), simply plays on the lines of suspicion and not on proof. And that’s where the film is strong.
The ending scene seemed a bit unnecessary, but I saw where Shanley was going with it. The film, to me, concluded about ten minutes before it ended, but it didn’t drive me crazy or anything.
This is mostly a “thinking” and “talking” movie. Not a lot of action, not too much going on on the surface. It’s all in the words being spoken, and that is a dead giveaway that this was a play. Much like “GlenGarry, Glen Ross”, or “12 Angry Men”, there aren’t too many changes of scenery, and there is a LOT of dialog. But it’s a very well made film, and worth seeing if you want to see the best acting of the year.