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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Only the acting

Author: Michael Obrofta from United States
21 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was disappointed, not in the acting, but in just about everything else. I read some encouraging reviews, and as the movie started Meryl Streep took me back to my teacher, Sister J. . As Streep wandered the aisles of Church and school, I said to myself, "Yes, this is an accurate scene. This is just how it happened." However, what was the purpose of this movie, and what is it's message? This is where I am deflated, let down and discouraged. I thought perhaps that the writers don't really have the insight into the real world of the Catholic Church just the periphery. Sure, recent years have uncovered a plethora of pedophiles, and if more was said of the movie in this, perhaps maybe the better, but little was said, just inferred. It seems that the message of this movie is it's title, and as the not so good Father tells us in the opening sermon, we can all find unity in having the same flaw. WHAT!!!??? This is a secular pile of dung. If priests and nuns wrote this movie they would write and act of doubt's antithesis, the all important credo in unity, which is Faith. Now, writers and audience alike may criticize my viewpoint, saying it is I who don't understand, but that is what I think is all wrong...with the world viewpoint and with this movie. I hate to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the movie, but the end says it all. In the end, Streep becomes a bad person. The movie tells us Father Flynn's next residence is larger and therefore puts more boys at greater risk, not to mention that Streep.... Well, I don't have to tell you if you want to watch it.

I have another problem with the movie as to how it handled the Miller boy. The movie let's us believe one thing, but the boy never shows any signs of being of a certain orientation, only the word of his mother in close conversation. Was the movie's point that gay boys attract the pedophiles? That whole line was confusing, and arguably underdeveloped. Point is if you're going to divulge the conversation with the Mother than something more has to be done with the subject matter, even if it's closed off quickly.

I can't recommend this movie except for the individual performances of Adams, Seymour and Streep (order by alpha or ind. rating, take your pick). They were all fantastic. I just wish they had a better script with which to work.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

He takes too much sugar in his tea

Author: James Hitchcock from Tunbridge Wells, England
23 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Like "Catholic Boys" (aka "Heaven Help Us"), "Doubt" is set in the mid sixties in a Catholic school in New York and, like that film and many others set in that particular decade, uses its sixties setting as a kind of cinematic shorthand for "clash between progressive values and conservative ones". There is, of course, a major difference between the two films. "Catholic Boys" is a comedy which uses this clash as a source of humour, some of it satirical. "Doubt" is a deeply serious film; one might even say a tragedy.

The clash between tradition and progress was particularly intense within the Catholic Church at this date, as this was the period of the reforming Second Vatican Council which sat between 1962 and 1965. (The film itself is set in 1964). The two sides are represented by Father Flynn, the liberal parish priest, and Sister Aloysius, the strict Principal of the school attached to the church. It is notable that Sister Aloysius has on the wall of her office a picture not of Paul VI, who would have been the incumbent Pope in 1964, nor of his immediate predecessor John XXIII, who was responsible for convening Vatican II, but of John's predecessor Pius XII, regarded by many Catholics as a champion of conservative values.

The two dislike one another intensely, and the main action of the film concerns Sister Aloysius's suspicions about the relationship between Father Flynn and Donald Miller, an altar boy. Donald has recently been admitted to the school as its only black student, a development which has aroused resentment among some of the other pupils and their parents. (A reminder that, although we normally associate segregation with the Deep South, the Northern states also had their own forms of racial discrimination). Sister Aloysius begins to suspect that Father Flynn has been sexually abusing the boy and, although she has no real evidence to support her suspicions, begins a campaign to force him to resign. As the film progresses, our sympathies shift first to one side, then to the other. At times we begin to fear that Sister Aloysius's suspicions may be well-founded; at others it seems as though she has launched a spiteful campaign of persecution against a blameless man for no other reason than that she dislikes his theology. Much of her dislike of him, in fact, seems to be centred on trivial reasons, such as that he writes with a ballpoint pen rather than a fountain pen and that he takes too much sugar in his tea.

"Doubt" is based upon a stage play by John Patrick Shanley, who also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. With its limited range of settings (mostly interiors) and lengthy dialogues, the film clearly betrays its theatrical origins. Nevertheless, Shanley is able to turn these features of the film into strengths. The indoor settings suggest a sense of claustrophobia; when the characters venture outside they often seem trapped between tall buildings. The action takes place in autumn and winter and the weather we see outside (grey skies, a thunderstorm, snow) seems to reflect the characters' emotions. Although the film is set in the sixties, the style of decor of the rooms, and most of the furniture, suggests a date several decades before that, adding to the atmosphere of intellectual conservatism.

Although dialogue predominates over physical action, that is no weakness when the dialogue is spoken by actors as talented as Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams as the naive young Sister James, who is initially responsible for arousing Sister Aloysius's suspicions about the priest but later comes to accept his explanations. There is also a good cameo from Viola Davis as Donald's mother Ida who asks Sister Aloysius not to pursue her suspicions. Ida believes her son to be gay and sees Father Flynn as the only man who has ever shown him kindness. All four received Oscar nominations, but none of them won. I felt, in fact, that Streep was better than Kate Winslet who won for "The Reader". Winslet's performance was technically good but with an emotional and spiritual void at the centre, whereas Streep, putting the ghastly "Mamma Mia" behind her, gave one of her best performances. Nevertheless, Streep already has two Oscars whereas Winslet had previously been nominated five times without success. You do the maths.

(Incidentally, I wonder if Streep ever will win a third Oscar; her second, for "Sophie's Choice" came as long ago as 1983, although she has received eleven nominations since. There sometimes seems to be an unofficial rule that if you've already got two Oscars you cannot win a third. Unless your name is Katharine Hepburn).

The theme of doubt runs through the film. It opens with Father Flynn giving a sermon on the nature of doubt and concluding that like faith, it can be a unifying force. It ends, after Flynn has been forced to resign, with Aloysius admitting in tears to Sister James, "I have such doubts". I must admit that I was disappointed by the ending which seems too abrupt and does not clarify the nature of Aloysius's doubts. Did she mean doubts about her faith in general, or doubts about Flynn's guilt? Or doubts about the justice of a God who can allow a guilty man to go unpunished? (After he resignation Flynn was transferred by the Church authorities to another, more prestigious, parish; effect a promotion). It is certainly true that in some cases an outward show of certainty can mask inner doubts and conflicts, but as Aloysius has hitherto appeared a person of unshakable convictions, untroubled by doubts of any kind, this sudden, unexplained revelation comes as a shock. A greater emphasis on her psychological development and a less hurried ending might have made for a stronger film.

With that one reservation, however, I found "Doubt" to be a powerful, well-written and well-acted drama, one of the best films of 2008. 8/10

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Dubious: A Review of the Play

Author: proteus6847 from United States
11 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When a novice in English literature encounters the designation "Mystery Play," he anticipates Agatha Christie and is surprised to discover the First and Last Things. John Patrick Shanley's play reverses that experience. As a drama about clerics entitled "Doubt: A Parable," it leads one to expect a story of spiritual crisis, of the loss or hard-won preservation of Faith. These expectations are encouraged by the play's opening monologue, which touches briefly on that very theme. But this proves to be a red herring, for the topic vanishes immediately afterwards, never to reappear. Instead, the play devolves into a modest, middlebrow detective story about a nun who suspects a priest of being a pedophile.

A small-m "mystery," then, but one which remains unsolved, since we are never told whether the nun's suspicions are justifed. By withholding this information, Shanley seeks to validate his title and invest his play with an imposing ambiguity. All in vain, since debating the priest's guilt or innocence is as pointless as arguing about the Lady or the Tiger. On the evidence presented, either alternative is plausible, but since the author hasn't written a solution, there is literally no solution. That isn't ambiguity, it's gimmickry.

Because in real life there would be a solution, and one which human effort could uncover. There hasn't been much "doubt" regarding clerical molestation, and there needn't be much doubt about the guilt or innocence of this play's Father Flynn. All one has to do is ask the adolescent boys that he's been teaching over the years.

And here we stumble upon a serious problem, for the play never explains why the nun fails to question the relevant boys in her own school. She insists (with little basis) that one of them would lie to "protect" Father Flynn. Yet she admits seeing another student shrink from the priest's touch, and that boy certainly isn't disposed towards protective prevarication. Obviously, other students might have seen or heard something as well, yet the nun never bothers to speak to any of them. This frankly incredible oversight leaves an enormous hole in the story's plausibility, a hole that Shanley couldn't fill without destroying his gratuitous "doubt."

Narrative illogic aside, this is a slight play, since a pedestrian puzzle that a couple of interviews can unravel is not an adequate metaphor for the mysteries that no one can solve. Does God hear our prayers? Is there a God at all? We will never know. "Is Father Flynn an active pedophile?" is simply not in the same league. Leaving the question unanswered does not make it profound, and of course there is no adequate reason to leave it unanswered in the first place.

Only once does this conventional play invite its audience to think unconventionally, but the invitation can hardly be accepted. In a late scene the nun tells an African-American mother that Father Flynn may have victimized her son. Unexpectedly, the mother replies that she can live with that--her boy is gay, his prospects are nil, perhaps an influential older lover can give him a head-start, etc. She is not presented as a moral idiot, but as a desperate woman wanting the best for her child who feels driven to take the widest possible view. But while her attitude is striking, it is obviously unacceptable as a rule for action. Assuming arguendo that some children might derive some benefit from a pedophilic mentor, should we therefore allow pedophiles to flourish unabated? Judging from their victims' testimony, these "mentors" inflict enormous damage; if they ever do a child some good, they are likely to do him as much or greater harm. In the end, it really isn't possible to inject much complexity into this issue, and the mother's plea for tolerance on behalf of man-boy love does not persuade. If Father Flynn is seducing children, he should be removed from the parish, the priesthood, and society as well. There is nothing more to say about the matter, and consequently not much "doubt."

For the rest, the play offers two-dimensional characters and serviceable dialogue. It holds the attention without gripping it.

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12 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

No Doubt About It

Author: AlanSKaufman from Chicago, Illinois
12 December 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Many people stay in abusive relationships because by being hurt they're getting some form of attention.

The mother of the boy in the movie Doubt uses such an excuse to justify supporting the priest accused of molesting her child. Inasmuch as her husband routinely beats their son (which mom does nothing to stop), she believes the kid at least receives some kindly attention from the priest.

You want to cry over her and the plight of the world that allows unremitting evil. It's the only scene where one feels this way. Paradoxically, Doubt is too successful in its premise as it otherwise leaves one saddled with doubt as to guilt or innocence and the lead actors behave so ambiguously as to appear amorphous.

Even the youngster gives no clue as to what if anything is going on. Alright, we thankfully are spared actually witnessing his being pummeled or possibly being seduced, but with absolutely nothing dramatized his performance comes across as indifferently as most others.

Yet I wish to stress the value of the film. If life is filled with doubt, if you can't believe anything anyone says, if nobody seems motivated by righteousness, well, Doubt gives a compelling confirmation. God help us all.

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17 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

A good film but demonic Sister Aloysius is silly to the point of causing giggles

Author: dbborroughs from Glen Cove, New York
25 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was not a fan of Doubt when it was on Broadway. I liked it but didn't love it,certainly not Pulitzer worthy. I found it too much of a problem play where people sit around and discuss ideas in ways that were meant to explore the ideas more then they were meant to be real. I found Sister Aloysius monstrous and almost comical. I did think it was nicely compact and did what it did and got off.

It was with some trepidation that I sat down to watch John Patrick Shanley's film of his play. My reaction was less than I had hoped.

The plot has Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) suspecting that all is not right with Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), particularly with his relationship with one of the boys in the school. There is no evidence that anything really happened but the Sister is damn certain something did and she is going to make sure that Father Flynn is removed. As events occur that can be taken any number of ways the heat increases and a battle of wills transpires.

In opening up his play Shanley has brought the story closer to the real world. There are more characters, more events and many characters are deepened. Unfortunately, in my eyes anyway, the resulting opening up has made Sister Aloysius seem almost laughable. To be certain she is a monster of epic proportions and I know that there are and were many nuns (and people) who are very similar to her but what worked on stage as a symbol of the stone like past of the church and the world, refusing to change, comes off on screen, in the real world, as a caricature. I found her silly and I found I was giggling more than anything else, especially with her ever shifting accent. Several critics in their reviews of the film said they found Streep to be in another movie from the rest of the cast, and in some ways I did too. Its the construction of the character, as I said she is the symbol of stagnation in a world of change, and she is more archetype then real person. She is just a rigid construct and not a real person, this would have worked on stage but not in a reality based film. (And mark my words its going to be role that becomes spoofed for years to come to the point of becoming a cliché)

The battle between stage and the screen is all over the film. What was a series of scenes on the stage where people effectively sat around and talked about what they have seen or might have seen now become a series of scenes where we actually see the events.For me the opening up of the play makes the story not one full of doubt, rather one that seems confused. Events that on stage were only revealed as events others saw transpire are now seen by all to happen. The angst some characters feel at what they saw is now lessened because we see the events (the locker) for example. We also have to contend with a a vastly increased number of characters (the original play had four) so additionally the story is shaded by actually seeing all of these people. How can we feel the uncertainty of what the sisters saw or feel when we see the same events. On some level, the very thing the film is about, doubt, is removed because we see things.

I know its not fair to compare the film with the play, since they are different, but at the same time I couldn't stop doing so because there were things the film was doing that didn't work for me (as opposed to the recent Frost Nixon which transcended it stage origins into something truly cinematic). Perhaps Ihad I not been exposed to the play I might have liked this better. As it stands now I found it a good but not great adaptation of a good but not great play.

Around 7 out of 10 (when Meryl Streep doesn't cause me to giggle)

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant from beginning to end

Author: viennashade from United States
9 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Unlike with other films, instead of counting the plot holes I am counting the cunning devices and remarkable performances and marveling at the dialogue and how everything fits together. I couldn't find any flaws, so I'm giving it 10 stars.

So many powerful scenes here, including the confrontation, the talk on the park bench between Father Flynn and young Sister James, and the walk with Donald's mother.

I thought because it was about religion it might get tedious, but I just wanted to rewind.

Self-righteous principal Sister Aloysius suspects impropriety from her priest on a hunch, and determines to bring him down. She knows the delicate situation as he is her superior, but she plows ahead. He gets very angry at the accusations. Ordinarily to me this indicates guilt, but that it no doubt just another clever ploy in this wonderful script..

When I heard his sermon that opened the movie, I definitely thought the doubt he was addressing was doubt of your faith, which I'm sure is a very common issue among every priest's parishioners. What do you say to that? It can't be easy to write a sermon...or even just to not put everybody to sleep, let alone to convince the doubters. I thought it was a fine sermon. But already this woman insisted on reading something into it that wasn't there, and began building her case.

I know this type of abuse goes on and is dreadful and I don't mean to defend it in any way, but I also know that people can be framed and that also angers me. And this film shows how it could be done even by a well-meaning and upstanding person.

That everyone in this film got an Oscar nomination was no surprise, and I think it was only due to a strong field that there were no wins.

Meryl Streep is nothing short of amazing. She never made a wrong move. It was fascinating to watch the way her character swung so easily from unreasonably cruel to glimmers of humanity.

The lead actor was brilliantly cast in Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose sleazy expressions combined with his hairstyle to make him look like he could be a pedophile; while his kindly expressions and ideas and actions made him seem like the model priest...for the perfect balance of good and bad. In every scene I kept thinking how incredible to be able to make yourself look so convincingly innocent, yet also make yourself look guilty at the same time. Mesmerizing.

Viola Davis stunned. She delivered lines that sounded so unfeeling and unlikely, and made them believable to your very core. Heartbreaking, raw, real. Amy Adams was also deserving, but her role was more subtle.

We never find out for sure if Father Flynn is guilty or innocent. I know what I believe, based on what we are shown of his actions and his character, but without true evidence, that is all there is to go on. In other words, just like life.

Father Flynn advocates loving children. He's a little sleazy, he's got long nails, he smokes, he wants to modernize the Church... They throw just enough at you to make you...doubt.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A nearly perfect film.

Author: mistabobdobolina from Canada
23 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Really old-school filmmaking, Doubt features a moral conflict at a Catholic school in the Sixties with a powerful topical resonance in the church sexual abuse scandals that have come into the open today. It tells a thought-provoking story that will stick with you out of the theatre, makes excellent use of the ambiguous resolution, and features top-notch performances from every member of the cast. If you love good acting, absolutely do not miss the opportunity to see Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep head-to-head, it's mesmerizing.

There really isn't anything more to say, for me. It's the kind of movie you need to see for yourself to truly appreciate.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Stellar acting

Author: Enchorde from Sweden
17 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Doubt is a very well played movie, an escalating conflict between the characters of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Streep plays the nun Beauvier that suspects Father Flynn, the parish priest, to have an improper relationship with a young boy in the church's school. In a series of confrontations the pressure and tension between them rises until one of them must break. Is Beauvier's suspicions correct? There are clues that support her feeling. Or are Flynn's explanations, that are plausible, how it is? In the middle, between them, is Sister James. She has doubts. Whom is correct?

It is a decent plot that is augmented by great acting. It is a thrill to see Streep and Hoffman to go up against another. The plot, however, is thinner, even with the mounting suspense. Part of it is that the audience is also held in doubt. Since the title and theme is what it is I can understand why that is done, and in part it does help to build the tension. But I'm not sure it is the right one in the end. The movie ends without really revealing the truth, or give any real ending at all, and some part of me wants a conclusion. I know it is simplistic and that the truth is in reality impossible to know, and perhaps during the circumstances not important. But the movie-watcher in me that wants to be entertained feels a little cheated.

The character Sister James is used a little oddly. In the beginning she is in the middle of it. She is the one that makes the observations that leads to the suspicions. It is in her classroom that many clues are found. She is the character that tries to find the moral balance in the story, that tries to find the truth, proofs, and not be lead by her own preconceptions. Early on she seems to be the character that pushes the story forward, but later on she suddenly disappears, she needs to go to a sick brother, and only appears briefly at the end. I wonder if the story would have unveiled more naturally in Sister James' perspective, not clouded by any convictions. Her uncertainty would have given the suspense some edge.

The acting is well worth the Academy Awards it got nominated for, and the story is set in an interesting context, considering the news from recent years. However, as a movie it lacked an edge to me. It might be the concealed truth, it might be Sister James' disappearance, it might be something else.


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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Clash of titans

Author: billcr12 from United States
25 February 2012

Meryl Streep is Sister Aloysius and Philip Seymour Hoffman is Father Ryan in this riveting drama from John Patrick Shanley, drawing from his experience at a Catholic School in the Bronx of the 1960s. The adaptation from Shanley's play will bring back memories to anyone with similar childhoods. I can recall the nuns at my school walking up and down the aisles, commanding the full attention of the class. Streep nails it so convincingly that she appears to have taken vows before filming the part. The same can be said of Hoffmann who seems to have been ordained after seminary training.

Doubt will leave you wondering about faith, religion, and what to believe in. The plot revolves around a 12 year old boy who may or may not have been molested by Father Ryan and the ensuing search for the truth by Sister Aloysius. There is no sentimentality at any point, Shanley keeps it real to the end, we will always in our lives have doubt.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Such Doubts

Author: Obeidat Andrei from Romania
16 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This was a movie full of intense dialog and symbolism.

It had one of the greatest casts of its year, and every single one of them, played there part beautifully. From the lovely and innocent Amy Adams, the intriguing Philip Seymour Hoffman, the doubtable and not forgiving Meryl Streep, to the mother that wants his son to survive till June Viola Davis.

The dialogs have a way of making you feel the emotion of the character they were spoken from, and just when you think you finally get who is wrong and who is right, there comes a symbol of some sort, or an action of one of the characters that makes you doubt them some more.

The movie is beautifully directed by John Patrick Shanley, who also wrote the scrip for the movie and the play its based on, so we can say that the adaptation is quite remarkable.

The end of the movie brings us face to face with one of the most natural and common feelings that a person has, even though they can shout out laud that they were "certain" of something or someone, Doubt.

This is quite a remarkable movie that needs to bee seen and seen again to understand, but i highly doubt that anyone will figure out who is right or wrong.

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