Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Review: Doubt (no spoilers)

In a word: uneven. Superb acting in spots by leads Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, sabotaged by an uneven script, mediocre cinematography, often poor shot selection and editing mistakes. For example, we are shown a cut-away scene several times in the film of the street corner the school is on, with students pouring down the sidewalks during a bright sunny afternoon. At least once the scene cuts directly to a downpour at night. Audio is atrocious, as if they recorded using 1960's technology - there is lots of over-modulation in the shouting scenes. Color is muted, as if they are going for a near B&W feel. For me this is a FAIL. YMMV.

John Patrick Shanley wrote the screenplay, which was based on his stage play, and also directed this film. His only other directing credit is Joe Versus The Volcano, and it shows. There are some excellent, innovative scene setups, and the set dressing is meticulously accurate. There are also some attempts at artsy-fartsy shot setups which are major FAIL. Some of the dialog is gripping, while some is BS stuck into the film in an awkward attempt to adjust how we feel about a character. One strong point in the directing is the sermons. The writing and the way they were shot is riveting.

Hoffman plays a parish priest. Streep plays the principal of the parish school. Adams is a too-young, too-innocent nun teaching US History. The principal is convinced that the priest has taken an unhealthy interest in one of the altar boys, the school's one black student. She has no proof, not even any real circumstantial evidence. Hence the title of the film.

80-year-old Alice Drummond deserves some kind of award for magnificent acting in the role of nearly blind Sister Veronica, but the part is probably too small for a supporting actress nod.

None of the child actors are anything to write home about, and the other sisters are non-entities as far as the writer is concerned.

This is definitely one of Streep's best performances, very much against type, and they hid her trademark nose very well behind glasses and a bonnet. All the sisters wore a bonnet instead of a wimple, and I wonder if that was for historical accuracy, or the costumer was on drugs. Any costumers out there care to educate me?

I did not like the ending. I won't spoil it for you, but suffice to say it ends with about 3 minutes too many of Streep which, in my eyes, destroyed her character (and the word "sabotage" comes to mind again).

It's a powerful film, despite its flaws, and well worth seeing if only for the mixed messages it gives.
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