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American Film's heavyweight acting champs square off.
st-shot29 December 2008
There are no better actors working in American film today than Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Streep has been on top for some time now and Hoffman has an unmatched resume of fine performances over the past five years. Pairing off as adversaries in John Patrick Shanley's stage play brought to screen they parry and prod throughout with each landing hay makers along the way.

Change is in the wind in 1964 for both the world and the Catholic Church (Second Vatican Council) as the country moves from conservatism to liberal thought. Sister Aloysius (Streep)is the principal of an inner city Catholic school who rules with an iron fist. Lamenting the loss of tradition (she thinks Frosty the Snowman is a song about worshiping false idols) she crosses swords with the popular and laid back Father Flynn who takes a more liberal view seeing the need to keep up with the times. His progressive ways gnaw at Sister Aloysius and she is soon suspecting Father Flynn of inappropriate relationship with altar boys even though she is without concrete proof.

The scenes between Streep and Hoffman are riveting from start to finish. Both attempt at first to be civil with each other but eventually they end up at each others throat bullying and threatening. It is a titanic emotional struggle that makes for a gripping drama flawlessly acted. I'm no big fan of Streep, finding the adopted accents she employs in some of her films false and hollow, but as the self righteous Nunzilla her pugnacious style and inflection rates with her Sophie's Choice performance. Hoffman has his work cut out for him to keep up with the formidable legend but he holds his own with equal footing.

In supporting roles Amy Adams is very effective as the unintended go between Sister James. Seized with doubt she like the audience mirrors our own misgivings as conflicted objective observers. Viola Davis as a troubled boy's mother has one lengthy powerful and painful scene that begins to tie loose ends together but offers no easy solution.

Writer director John Patrick Shanley does an admirable job in keeping the plot nebulous with ambivalent scenes and peripheral characters that purposefully enhance the suspense. Scenes are tightly edited with sparse but effective dialog giving the film its steady pace. Other than some jarring oblique angle shots the camera compositions and set design provide a somber ambiance for the drama and an arena for the perfectly measured performances by two masters of the craft in this fight to the finish that remains absorbing from beginning to end.
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To Doubt Is Human
evanston_dad22 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Doubt can be a bond as strong as fear." If ever there was a time in our country's recent history where that line carried the force of relevance, it's now.

And though it's set in the early 1960s (roughly a year after the Kennedy assassination), there's no doubt that John Patrick Shanley's adaptation of his own Pulitzer-Prize winning stage play is a response to these dark times, when the only thing that seems to be uniting Americans is their collective insecurity and ever-weakening belief that things are going to get better.

At the center of "Doubt" is the mystery of whether or not a priest (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is guilty of taking advantage of an altar boy. The priest's primary (and really sole) prosecutor is Sister Aloysius, the uber-stern and terrifying principal of the Catholic school that provides "Doubt" its setting. Watching Hoffman and Streep spar is like watching two professional tennis players at their best, and fans of expert movie acting should waste no time in seeing the sparks fly between these two. The movie purposely never clarifies the ambiguity of the charges -- is Hoffman's priest truly guilty of something, or is Sister Aloysius simply on a mad witch hunt? Streep's character is the most fascinating. From one perspective, she's a nearly maniacal harpie, intent on ruining a man's life and career for no clear reason. However, if her accusations are legitimate, she's a sort of hero, demanding justice from a male-dominated world that's willing to look the other way. Streep's performance is something fascinating to behold -- she can convey more with an arched eyebrow than another actor can with his entire face.

Amy Adams gets the pivotal role of a young, innocent nun who first brings her suspicions about the priest to her superior, and then sees them become Frankenstein's monster. In many ways, Adams' character is us, the audience, placed in the position of having to come to a conclusion on our own when empirical evidence is lacking. Adams' role is the least showy, but she does much with it.

And then there's Viola Davis, who, in five minutes of screen time, decimates the audience with some shocking conclusions of her own as the altar boy's mother. The insulated, hushed world of the Catholic Church is blown wide open by this struggling mother, who's seen more of the world than any of the priests and nuns sheltered behind the church's walls, and who puts the film's running themes of racial and gender inequality into harsh perspective.

The central conflict in "Doubt" in many ways comes down to each individual's view of the world and his or her ability to accept the ambiguity of day to day living. There's a lot about the world we will never know and much about our futures we'll never be able to control. So what's better -- anticipating the worst and therefore being prepared when it comes; or believing in the best and running the risk of being disappointed when it fails to arise? The movie just poses this question -- it doesn't try to answer it.

"Doubt" is not a fancy movie and will win no awards for its cinematic audacity. But in looking back at the movies of 2008, I imagine it will stand as one of the best-acted films of the year.

Grade: A
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The Movie and the Case
Pierre Radulescu22 June 2010
I think there are two distinct cases to discuss: the case in the movie; the case about the movie.

The case in the movie: it is 1964 and in a Catholic school in Bronx a conflict erupts between the principal (Meryl Streep) and the priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman). The principal is Sister Aloysius, a nun very strict about the discipline. The priest, Father Flynn, is just the opposite, a very natural guy, open to people and to the world. The nun suspects him of pedophilia. The suspicion will never be confirmed, never thrown away. Eventually it's up to us to decide, and our role of spectators is played in the movie by Sister James (Amy Adams), a younger nun who is trying to understand what really is, oscillating between the two. By the way, genial idea of using male names for the Catholic nuns, to stress out the strictness of their rules.

The case about the movie: the epoch Doubt was made and the epoch the picture takes place are very different. The sixties were the years of Vatican II; the Catholic Church was opening largely its windows. It was the conflict (often brutal) between new and tradition, between progressives and conservatives. This was then. Today the Church is facing the scandals of pedophilia (and the way they are handled by the Catholic hierarchy).

So, if we take the epoch of the sixties, we take the side of Father Flynn, a man open to modernity, empathizing with the youth, with their questions and their way of seeing the world, speaking the language of his epoch, a wonderful man suspected by a retrograde nun.

Only the movie is made today, for today's viewers, and we are focused on today's issues. So here is the question: once the nun had suspicions that the priest was a pedophile, what was the right way to take? To not follow a case without positive evidence? Or, by the contrary, to follow the case, to force him to come with proofs of his innocence? What was more important: his right to privacy or the safety of the boys? We can say that the movie leaves the case open. Nothing demonstrates positively that the priest is a pedophile; nothing demonstrates that he isn't.

Well, the movie brings something more: what if? What if the boy is born with another orientation and the priest is just understanding and protecting him? Maybe just because the priest has the same orientation? There is a key scene in the movie, the discussion between Sister Aloysius and the boy's mother (wonderfully played by Viola Davis), leading to an unexpected outcome.

And I think here is the doubt the movie is putting forward: more than the doubt of Sister James (is Father Flynn an abominable pedophile, beyond his openness?), more even than the doubt of Sister Aloysius (was she right in following a man without positive proofs?), there is the doubt of humanity. Human behavior is complex, each human case is unique and cannot be assimilated to a general pattern. Things aren't every time what they look like, we should always consider this question, what if?
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Absolutely riveting!
manxman-131 August 2009
Wow! Incredible performances from Meryl Streep and Philip Seymore Hoffman. Mesmerizing intensity from Streep as the nun seeking to find Hoffman guilty of a sin he may or may not have committed. Amy Adams gives a sincere performance as the nun who sets the ball rolling with her suspicions that Hoffman may have molested a black student. The scenes between Streep and Hoffman crackle with intelligence and frightening intensity. Streep, as the unrelenting figure of justice, determined at any cost to destroy Hoffman, is terrifying and unrelenting. Hoffman gives a performance less restrained and mannered than the one he gave in Capote (and won the Oscar for) and boy, does he ever deserve to have won a second one for this outing. An absolute knockout, nuanced and convincing in every way. What a masterful performance! John Patrick Shanley's script is riveting from start to finish. If anyone has any doubts about watching this movie due to the theme then put those doubts aside as the writing and acting are without doubt amongst the finest ever committed to film. A superb piece of work.
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The Power Of Doubt
Chrysanthepop20 March 2009
'Doubt' has turned out to be quite a fascinating puzzle. The story is pretty much told through dialogue rather than portrayal of events. Shanley's overwhelming screenplay is so effective and the element of mystery is carried out so strongly that even the viewer is left doubting the actions of the priest and the motives of the head nun (were her accusations legitimate or was it all an intent to ruin the priest). His incredible direction takes us through the psyche of the four principle characters.

Needless to say, the outstanding performances are just the necessary requirements that Shanley has successfully met. After all, who could ask for a better cast than Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis? All these actors display some of the best acting of their career. It is both the dialogue delivery and the non-verbal gestures that strengthens the doubts in the viewers mind and makes the characters nonetheless more convincing.

The slightly washed-out colours give the look of the 60s but also adds to the mysterious atmosphere. 'Doubt' is a very thought-provoking film. It has one questioning. Should the nun have reacted or should she have waited for evidence? But what if it was already too late for evidence? What has doubt done to them? It has them questioning themselves constantly. It has stolen their sleep. We accept that it is human to doubt but what does doubt do to us? What kind of power does it hold above us? How do we react on it? When should we react on it? The director beautifully manages to convey and provoke this without appearing pretentious or preachy.
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New genre - the moral thriller
jsorenson7772 February 2009
Normally we give too much credit to actors. They often work for short periods and force myriad takes. Directors manipulate and cajole them. Then the filmmakers spend months choosing the best shots, carving them and stringing them together to make the story (and the long-gone actors) look good.

"Doubt" is an exception, only in that the actors are especially marvelous. The many close-ups and the length of the shots attest to the trust John Patrick Shanley puts in them. Streep and Hoffman are superb. Adams and Davis are remarkable as well.

Still the most credit for this phenomenal effort must go to Shanley.

What a fascinating story, with layers and springbacks that will leave you thinking and rethinking.

Thank you very much to all involved with this fine film.
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Avoids easy answers
Howard Schumann22 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
According to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, over four thousand clerics were accused of sexual abuse during the past fifty years. Although approximately thirty percent of these accusations were not investigated because they were unsubstantiated, given the proclivity of the bishops to cover up these incidents, the figures are widely suspected to be underestimated. What may be lost in the discussion of statistics about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, however, is an understanding of the humanity of the people involved or the complexities of the circumstances.

This factor is brought to light in Doubt, John Patrick Shanley's filmed version of his Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning stage play. Based on Shanley's personal experiences at Catholic School, the film explores not only the issue of possible sexual abuse but conservative versus progressive religious values and how far one can rely on suspicion in the absence of proof. Set in 1964, one year after the Kennedy assassination, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) is the dragon lady of St. Nicholas school in the Bronx. A strict taskmaster, she relishes her role as the upholder of tradition, rejecting such modern devices as ballpoint pens and the singing of secular songs at Christmas like Frosty the Snowman which she equates with pagan magic.

Under Aloysius is the sweet and innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) whose easy going manner and charming personality is a welcome antidote to her authoritarian superior. The priest at St. Nicholas is Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is the closest thing to a progressive at the school. He is open to new ideas and the changes initiated by Pope John XXIII, being much more open and relaxed with the children and engaging them in sports and conversation. In his sermons he brings the language of religion into the twentieth century, talking about the positive aspects of doubt and the injurious effects of gossip. "Doubt", he says, "can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone." Resentful of the role of women in the Catholic Church and suspicious of Father Flynn, Sister Aloysius assigns Sister James to keep an eye peeled for anything unusual in his conduct. Her fears appear justified when Sister James reports that Father Flynn asked Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II), the school's only African-American student, to a private conference in the rectory and was seen hanging up the boys undershirt in his locker. Sister James also informs her that there was alcohol on the boy's breath and that the boy seemed upset when returning to his desk.

Although no inappropriate behavior was witnessed, Sister Aloysius suspects wrongdoing and summons the priest to her office on the pretext of discussing the Christmas pageant. She accuses the priest of misconduct with the altar boy who denies that he gave altar wine to the boy or that anything unusual happened. The drama takes more twists and turns, especially when Donald's mother (Viola Davis) raises Aloysius' eyebrows by suggesting that, in spite of the allegations, the boy, who is due to enter high school in a few months, may be better off in the hands of the priest than having to face his intolerant and abusive father.

Doubt avoids easy answers and challenges us to view inflammatory issues from a broader perspective, embracing the essential mystery of human behavior. The acting in the film is uniformly brilliant. Streep is mesmerizing, even if at times more theatrical than may be necessary for the character. Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance is more restrained and draws our sympathy with his broader view of church doctrine and display of love and compassion, although his demeanor at the end tantalizingly suggests remorse.

What may be the most noteworthy performance, however, is that of Viola Davis whose dialogue with Aloysius is one of the dramatic high points of the film. The issue of whether Father Flynn acted as a friend and mentor to the boy or a sexual partner is ultimately left to the viewer to resolve, though what is beyond doubt is that absolute certainty without considering other points of view is a dead end for all involved.
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Spectacular, gripping, shattering
fnj200222 December 2009
"Doubt" dares to explore one of the most compelling issues of recent years, and to do so with a completely unmanipulative perspective with no sermonizing.

The linear narrative style is refreshing, with no flashbacks and flash forwards, and no contamination of the story (set in the early 1960s) with the hindsight of recent events. It is relentless. We see the events of those days without any cinematic deus ex machina. We are not privileged to any all-showing exposition of critical events. We have only the souls of the principles as expressed in their dialog and in their faces.

With the mighty acting duo of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, and a more than able supporting cast and superb direction, "Doubt" has dramatic fireworks without cheap gimmicks.

The final 30 seconds puts a fitting cap on the message. The effect is devastating.
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Thrilling, thoughtful, intriguing. One of the best films of 2008
MovieDude189312 April 2009
Doubt {dir. John Patrick Shanley} (****/****)

Although it includes some heavy themes, Doubt, is one of the most entertaining and involving films to come along in quite sometime. Rarely have my heart and mind been so engaged in a film simultaneously. At its heart, Doubt remains the stage play upon which it is based, about a priest who is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a young boy. The priest is played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and the nun investigating (Sister Aloysius, great name) the situation is played by Meryl Streep, the best living actress and the best actress of the year. The language used in the film treats the situation very carefully and the confrontations between the characters crackle with well- written intensity. The film's central theme is indeed the title: Doubt. As an audience, we are left to our own devices in judging Father Flynn's relationship to the young boy. This uncertainty is a rare and valuable thing in film today. Great performances, wonderful writing and tough themes.
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interesting theme only sporadically well executed
Roland E. Zwick5 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Strong performances are the saving grace of "Doubt," an otherwise uneven, overly glib tale of possible sexual abuse in one New York City parish circa 1964.

Sister Aloysius is a tradition-bound nun who goes through life utterly untroubled by uncertainty or doubt, running her convent and grade school with unyielding self-righteousness and the iron fist of unchallenged authority. Sister Aloysius doesn't take any more kindly to the accoutrements of the modern world - she has banned all ballpoint pens from the premises and decries "Frosty the Snowman" as a celebration of pagan magic - than she does to the "liberalizing" effect Vatican II has had on the Church she views as the last bastion of morality in an increasingly permissive and immoral world. This puts her in direct conflict with Father Flynn, a reform-minded, man-of-the-people priest who is more concerned with his parishioners' needs than with church ritual per se - yet whom Sister Aloysius has reason to suspect might be a pedophile. Or is she simply targeting the man and seeing what she wants to see because his view of the Church is so at odds with her own? The third main character, Sister James, is a perpetually upbeat but generally naïve novice who becomes more than a disinterested bystander in the war-of-wills that erupts between her two equally hardnosed superiors.

In adapting his play to the screen, writer/director John Patrick Shanley hits on some intriguing themes revolving around certainty vs. doubt and traditionalism vs. progressivism, but the movie isn't always as intellectually honest and convincing as one might wish it to be, especially when Shanley indulges in such hokey effects as the winter wind batting against the windows or well-orchestrated thunder bolts crashing overhead at "meaningful" moments in the picture. Similarly, the reactions the characters have to one another and the situation they're involved in don't always ring true given the less enlightened time period in which the story takes place. And the final "transformative" moment comes upon us with such abruptness and with so little preparation that it quite literally rings down the curtain on the entire enterprise.

Yet, despite all these flaws, "Doubt" periodically rises to the occasion and does justice to the complexity of its subject matter. This is particularly the case in a searing scene between Sister Aloysius and the mother of one of the boys who may have fallen victim to Father Flynn's inappropriate conduct, a scene that catches us completely off-guard with its sheer unexpectedness and its paradigm-shifting effect on the story.

Moreover, the performances are uniformly excellent, starting with Meryl Streep who brings a surprising amount of humor and even warmth to a character who is, for all intents and purposes, cut off from her emotions by her dogmatically rigid nature. Phillip Seymour Hoffman effectively keeps us guessing as to the truth about his character, never tipping his hand one way or the other as to what is taking place in the depths of his soul. Amy Adams makes a compelling stand-in for those of us in the audience who are trying to reserve judgment on these two characters before all the facts are revealed. Special note must also be taken of Viola Davis, superb in her brief but unforgettable appearance as the mother who delivers an unsettling response to news that her son may have been the victim of a sexual predator.

The movie seems to suggest that one can never have one hundred percent certitude about anything in this life and that actions must often be taken even when all the "facts" in a particular case can never be fully known. Yet, what happens when such an action could result in the destruction of another person's livelihood and reputation? It's an interesting theme that is only sporadically well addressed by "Doubt," but the food-for-thought that the movie provides makes it worth checking out anyway.
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More like Vagueness than Doubt
fung014 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Doubt is almost a great film, but it falls short on logic. The many 10/10 ratings seem to refer more to what the film *should* have been, than to what it turned out to be.

For me, the main problem is the trick that Meryl Streep's nun plays on Hoffman's priest - lying about calling a nun in his old parish. This seems to reveal with far too much certainty that the man is indeed guilty - of something. If he wasn't expelled from previous positions, why does he not question the (supposed) phone call more strongly? If we are to believe that the priest resigns simply because he feels unable to fight the slander, then we should hear him say so. Instead, we see only that he's running away; apparently, the nun's tactic has worked.

As a result, the nun ends up looking far too 'right,' and the ending sounding far too glib. There's no other explanation offered, no discussion of ramifications or possibilities. Could the priest's obvious good works excuse some wrongdoing? The question is not asked, nor answered. On the other hand, is the nun right to be malicious and inflexible, because in the end she accomplishes the correct result? Apparently she is, since any ill effects - especially on the naive younger nun - are not really delved into. (They're suggested in one scene, then abandoned. If there have been no ill effects, then clearly the older nun was right.)

So far, the film's point of view is clear as mud. (In fact, various reviewers here have come to entirely different conclusions. That's not Doubt; that's just vague.)

On top of all this there's the historical perspective. I was actually IN Catholic schools at about this time, and I happen to know the real guilty party, beyond any Doubt: it was the Church as an institution. The film seems prepared to tackle this issue, but again fails to carry through. We have the older nun, representing the stiff, traditional past. Contrasted with the priest, who reflects the much-needed modernization brought in by Pope John XXIII. Yet it's the priest who ends up in the wrong. What are we to make of this?

And what about Meryl Streep's character - who quite accurately represents generations of venomous, domineering nuns who terrorized small children - a legacy of institutionalized bullying that did easily as much harm overall as any priestly molestations. Do we hate her for the harm she does? Well, it's not really shown. She's right every time she deals with a child, and none show any obvious ill effects of her domination. (Though I would suggest that in fact the film's characterizations are accurate; Catholic schools tended to either crush children's will, or turn them into obnoxious rebels. Both outcomes are represented in the film, but the point of what we're seeing is not raised.)

With all this in mind, Streep's final cry of "Oh, I'm so wracked with doubt!" sounds very hollow indeed. What is she so doubtful about?? She has absolute certainty that the priest was guilty. Is she just agonizing over the methods she used to defeat him? Could it be that the *real* doubt in this movie is merely whether or not the ends justify the means?? If so, how disappointing, when so many other questions have been raised! And how uninteresting, given that no real ill effects of her tactics are shown.

Which brings us to the central dramatic failing of the film. The real pivotal character of this story is clearly that of the younger, naive nun. She is the only character that undergoes a major transformation, and hence begs to be spotlighted. Yet we are left entirely unclear as to how the events of the film have affected her. Has she been poisoned by the elder nun's harsh attitudes? Or has she absorbed the love and humor of the (possibly flawed) priest? Or, ultimately, can she find a middle course, that would show a way forward for the Church: due caution, tempered with a love that puts the children's welfare first? Unfortunately, the film's ending veers away from this, THE key question, and focuses on Streep's deeply uninteresting "Doubt."

It seems like Shanley set out to create one of those knife's-edge dramas, where difficult questions are raised but not given absolute answers. But at some point he slipped off, ending up not with ambivalence and "Doubt," but with logic that's just muddled. Or maybe the gaps were filled by material that ended up on the cutting room floor. I had the strong feeling the film wanted to be about fifteen minutes longer. A bit more exposition might have at least told us what we were supposed to be in Doubt *about.*

On the positive side, I'd say that the film looks terrific, and the (three!) main performances are brilliant - even though constrained by by Shanley's confused script.
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Only the acting
Michael Obrofta21 July 2009
Warning: 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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Entertaining Drama In One Single Note
A.W Richmond24 November 2008
Let me start by saying that I wasn't bored for one second and that it is always fascinating to see great actors chewing the scenery. Meryl Streep is one of my heroes she will always be be here something happened. Her performance is devoid of highs and/or lows. She goes through it in second gear. I had hoped for a performance of the Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratchet with a pleasant almost benign exterior but a monstrous center and Philip Seymour Hoffman, another great, doesn't project any kind of sexual vibe so the sexual allegations may work on a stage play but not on the screen. The part needed a John Garfield. On top of that, there is something missing on the structure of the story. We're taken through two acts but the third act is missing. I didn't believe in that ending it felt to come out of left field. So yes, I was entertained but dissatisfied.
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I still have doubts
gooelf5024 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This was the most unsettling movie I have seen in many years. Throughout the showing I found myself wandering back and forth between condemnation of the Priest's behaviour, the Principal's behaviour and the behaviour of the young black student's Mother. The part of the traditional nun who is principal of a Catholic School is played perfectly by Meryl Streep. She's unhappy with change and views it almost as a loss of the comfort and peace of mind that comes with tradition. The part of the new Priest is played just as perfectly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He views change in the way religion is practiced as absolutely essential and wants to see the iron fisted traditional rule of the principal disappear into the dark, inflexible past where it belongs. Thus, from the beginning of the movie there is a silent war between the two main characters. If you are a trusting and positive person, you may find yourself believing that the new priest is a wonderful man who cares about nothing more than the religious health and happiness of the parishioners and young students of his church. The affection that he displays for the troubled young black student at the centre of the controversy is touching and absolutely appropriate. On the other hand, if you are a more cynical person, likely to be suspicious of any behaviour that strays from the reserved understanding that a priest traditionally expresses in a more sombre way to his parishioners and students, then you may quickly decide that he is all of the things that the principal suspects him to be. In the end, the principal wins out and succeeds in driving the new priest out of the parish. He moves on to another parish where he has greater responsibilities and enjoys a higher level of professional respect. But I, the viewer, am left wondering if the principal is a paranoid cast back to 17th century religious practices, who victimizes a new priest simply because he represented change that she wasn't prepared to accept, or if the new Priest actually is an abuser who took advantage of a young vulnerable boy who had no one to turn to for comfort, but was ferreted out by a wise, no nonsense adherent to purity in religion.
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The Dragon Nun and The Wimp
mocpacific10 January 2009
I was taken aback by the lack of nuance and subtlety. Meryl Streep is a monstrous nun from the very beginning and Philip Seymour Hoffman is a wimp that can shout but remains a wimp. I just didn't believe any of it, which is a pity because this are among my favorite actors of all time. I think that John Patrick Shanley (the writer, director) didn't have enough muscle to handle this enormous talents. Meryl's nun couldn't hide anywhere, she carries her intolerance, frustration and repression on her sleeve. She knows she is hated but according to her, that's her job. No, I didn't believe it. I thought what Vanessa Redgrave, Liv Ullman, Helen Mirren even Cherry Jones who played her on the stage could have done with this creature and then, Philip Seymour Hoffman's priest, without a single vibe of sexuality, imagine what Montgomery Clift could have done with that! After saying what I've said I also have to add that the film is never boring and that is also merit of the miscast leads. They are great fun to watch. The film is dedicated to Sister James, the young nun played by the wonderful Amy Adams, so this is based on a real case? I don't believe that either.
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Free to interpretation of each who sits down to observe.
Jamie Ward28 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Doubt, as it is most commonly known in its many manifestations and forms, is often antagonised as a weakness, or a fault in virtue. Yet, somewhat dubiously overlooked is its antithetic counterpart who comes in the form of belief, faith, conviction, or unwavering assertion. Indeed, how far will a person tread down a road guided only by their intuition and trust in faith alone? These questions which in turn reflect and pave way for many of Doubt's most potent and engaging moments of narrative, are of course brought up in the course of the adapted play's screenplay, but they are not answered—at least, not directly. In fact, rather ironically, doubt is a feature that places the pieces of the moral puzzle in question upright onto the table, and then leaves them there; dangling and free to interpretation of each who sits down to observe. This somewhat open-ended, vague and subjective form of cinematic expression is something that is rarely seen outside of art houses and the most daring of film-makers palettes. And yet director/writer and playwright John Patrick Shanley implements the risky move here with ease and grace. Yet the real flavour, despite having plenty of potency within these realms, lies outside of debating, suspicions and tests of virtue—first and foremost, doubt is a study of human characters, and how they can often clash as a result of their diversities in opinions and temperaments. The majority of Doubt's story then is central to three catalysts for the script's themes to manifest and evolve. These three personas come in the form of a reserved, progressively adapted priest by the name of Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman); a young, bright-eyed newcomer nun named Sister James (Amy Adams); and a stern, assertive and conniving traditionalist nun named Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep). While it would be of no fault of anyone to assume that the themes I have mentioned thus far have everything and all to do with the question of religious faith only, this tangent however relevant and vital to the backdrop of the story, nevertheless serves as just that—a backdrop. Instead Doubt takes its intellectual conflict between heart and reason in the form of a cloudy event involving father Flynn and a young alter-boy who takes a certain liking to the father-like-figure of the priest. After hearing a notably unsure and reserved report from Sister James, Sister Beauvier asserts that she knows what is going on with Flynn, and that she's going to set everything straight. But what then, is her evidence? Not much. In fact, aside from word of mouth (gossip, you could decree) from a young, naïve woman not sure even of her own words, Beauvier has nothing but her suspicion and conviction to go on. From here on in then, it is the sole intent of the director to address the themes of doubt itself, and its oppressor, being the Absolute Truth, or so it is perceived by those who take heed of its obvious presence. How Shanley delivers his story is nothing short of engrossing however; the whole structure of the play sees characters sway from one end of the moral spectrum to the other—indeed, it's startling as a viewer to find such palpitating changes of heart regarding characters. Sure enough, the whole affair comes across as overtly manipulative because of the amount of ambiguity and twists and turns that Shanley throws out there, but taken in context of the movie's themes of mistrust, unfaltering conviction and the inability for compassionate re-evaluation, Doubt reflects its ideas in the head of its viewer without blatantly pointing out such shifts; the emotional tugs are indeed obvious, but the strings pulling them, are not. Yet for all intents and purposes, Doubt exists as a fine testament not only to Shanley's ability as a film-maker, but also his ability to direct his cast, and to allow them to envelop the characters from within his emotionally contorted monster. Taking forefront for obvious reasons here are both Hoffman and Streep who deliver performances just as convincing and engaging as their characters are written. Hoffman himself has seen a vast array of roles (specifically from 2008) which have made him a figure to watch from here on in, but Streep, despite her accolades from previous years, has found herself in some lacklustre roles as of late. Doubt then, with its rich, multi-dimensional characters and interpersonal relations, finds Streep back at home, embodying her persona with vigour and a conviction that always finds the audience clamouring at her feet, but not at the expense of maintaining their attention. It's a somewhat humble, unassuming feature as a whole that will be easily misinterpreted by a few, but only a few. Instead, those looking for intelligent, layered and tangible character drama laced with plenty of thematic conjecture will find much to enjoy here. Of course, there is every reason to believe that the feature's lack of resolution or clear, objective stances will disgruntle those dimmed into expectations of cathartic, solidified resolves—but this in turn is the point of Doubt. Not only does it offer up food for thought, intrigue the heart and question the nature of our own convictions we may hold dear, but it also echoes those themes through its unavoidably ambiguous and unknowing nature. One thing that certainly is clear here however, is that Doubt exists as a complex, significant feature, brimming with subdued, nuanced life and important statements beyond which most cinematic fare avoids in favour of comfortable, solidified answers; it's a bold statement, and an endlessly intriguing and engrossing one at that.
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Excellent Acting and a Great Story
happyjuanpa31 October 2008
I really enjoyed this film. I saw it at the Opening night of the AFI FEST 2008. They (AFI) added this film 8 days before the opening, after they lost the original selected film (The Soloist) when the studio decided to move its release for March 2009, but without any doubts, it was a better choice to have this film instead. Not only me, but the audience were very amazed with the film. I think it's time to give another Oscar to that monster called MERYL STREEP, no more nominations. Every detail of her acting is outstanding, and believe me she did a job that glued your eyes to the screen. Also Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis deserve a nomination for those excellent jobs. A very strong film, well directed and excellently acted. Great adaptation of the theater play that I have saw in Broadway. The production designer did an excellent job as well as the photographer. Personally I congratulated the director for a great masterwork. doubts that will be a great contender for the industry awards. You will see.
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A good film but demonic Sister Aloysius is silly to the point of causing giggles
dbborroughs25 January 2009
Warning: 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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Doubt is all Dialogue, Acting and Weather
Acolin_f30 August 2009
Doubt is all Dialogue, Acting and Weather

There is no doubt. Nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and for Best Writing, Doubt is an acting tour de force.

Remember this name. John Patrick Shanley. He is the writer of only a dozen movies, but a few of them are quite good. He wrote Alive with Ethan Hawke, Joe Versus the Volcano with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and the sweetheart maker, Moonstruck with Nicholas Cage and Cher (Oscar for screen writing).

The 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this Broadway play is all dialog, acting, and weather. Cold weather. Cold northeastern winter weather. The kind that blows across your path, knocks down limbs in your way, obscures your vision and maybe makes you see things that aren't there. The kind of hard wind that blows away the fine line dividing right and righteous, wrong and wronged. The kind of cold Meryl Streep exposes as Viola Davies offers up her son to the bare bones of stark truths.

Just as Shanley did with the play, none of the other actors know if Father Flynn is guilty. Yet, the Spartan dialog gives these accomplished angels their wings. Doubt floats with the power of their performances. Nary is a word wasted. Neither a look nor a glance spent unwisely.

"Doubt," Philip Seymour Hoffman's character says in the opening siloque, "can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty."

With performances like Julia & Julie, Meryl Streep will soon be sweeping aside all other acting award records. Those who love her need look no further than Doubt for proof of her incredible talents.

Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis and John Patrick Shanley follow in her footsteps. They track her out of the warmth of what you think you know is right and good and into a shivering Bronx, dusted with unfeeling snow. 8/16/2009

Love these lines!

Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman)in Doubt:

Well, I'm not going to let her keep this parish in the dark ages! And I'm not going to let her destroy my spirit of compassion!

That I can look at your face and know your philosophy. It's kindness.

There are people who go after your humanity, Sister, that tell you the light in your heart is a weakness. Don't believe it. It's an old tactic of cruel people to kill kindness in the name of virtue. There's nothing wrong with love.
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People In Glass Houses Throw Some Stones
Theo Robertson17 February 2014
Worried that a priest's interest in a young black choir boy may be something more sinister than spiritual Sister James goes to the mother superior Sister Aloysuis Beauvier with her concerns . Suspecting Sister James is correct Sister Beauvier tells Father Brendan Flynn to leave the parish

No prizes for guessing why the BBC showed this film . It's a tribute to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman . That said because the premise also involves child sexual abuse the film is given added topicality . Let me explain to non British members website . For the last few months we have seen many British celebrities being either arrested , charged or taken to court on sexual abuse charges . Several big profile cases have already taken place with most of the defendants being found not guilty . The jury have seen all the evidence put in front of them , have weighed up the evidence and returned their verdict . The sad thing is that even is someone is found not guilty then there's still the element of no smoke without fire . It's a sad fact amongst certain sections of the general public that they seem to take it upon themselves that they know better than a jury who have seen all the evidence . If I was sitting on a jury I'd make sure I'd weighed up all the evidence

This is the problem with DOUBT . The audience are presented with no evidence what so ever . Sister James is suspicious relays her suspicions to the mother superior who instantly judges Father Brendan guilty because ... well because . She knows better , she's had experience in these cases and that's the end of it . Let's not beat about the bush here . Father Brendan is a catholic priest and that should be enough to get anyone's secular spidey senses tingling . However the supposed child victim doesn't make any allegations and it's left to sour faced religious zealots to judge if their peer is guilty of something . There is a very strong element that the mother superior simply doesn't like Father Brendan possibly because he is popular with his flock so she might be pursuing an agenda of her own . This ambiguity is paradoxically the story's strength but at the same time its major weakness . Father Brendan may be a paedophile or he may not be . We never find out and because all the protagonists worship the cult of superstition it's very difficult for this humanist audience member to empathise with any of them . DOUBT is a well acted film but because the ambiguity is the entire subtext I'm going to have to return a not proved verdict
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Intense, maybe over-concentrated version of stage play
Framescourer25 June 2009
John Patrick Shanley's film is of his own successful stage play. Rather like Arthur Miller's The Crucible we are presented with a thriller with an ecclesiastical backdrop, where warped righteousness and power prevail in a moral fog. I have to say that on a first viewing, Shanley's film sells itself thinly. In a wonderful script he creates a vast penumbra of terrors (both ethical and social). Yet, by the close, none of these foibles or even the paranoia that they instigate has been really addressed. We do not know what has happened behind the scenes during the film, which is fine, but we need to have more about its fallout and assimilation. Sister Aloysius' final, crumbling coda is insufficient.

Shanley could not have had a better ensemble advocate for this film. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Flynn is the antithesis of Meryl Streep's Aloysius; worldly, sensitive and vulnerable. Perhaps needless to say that tear the screen up with the intensity of their escalating confrontation - their restraint only focuses their resolve and ire. Amy Adams holds her own in this company.

However, the deep, dark heart of the film is in Aloysius' conference with Mrs Miller (the mother of the boy around whom assumptions and accusations are spawned). This is a sequence of first-class cinema in which arguably the finest two women actors in America grasp at the evanescent poles of propriety, morality and social reality. Viola Davis was robbed of a Best Supporting Oscar for this performance, without question.

The film looks rather stagey, as one might expect as Shanley has only got behind a camera once before. Nonetheless it looks fine (Roger Deakins has photographed it well) and Shanley wisely uses some light Hitchcockian touches (diagonal framing) to warm it up. Indeed I couldn't help thinking about I Confess, Hitchcock's masterful, entertaining adventure into the extremities of Catholic absolutism vs reality. This film is not that exciting - nor is it quite as forensic as The Crucible - but it is well-performed and impressive. 7/10
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To Catch a Predator
tieman6414 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
John Patrick Shanley directs "Doubt". The plot? A Catholic nun accuses a priest of abusing a child. She has no evidence, but trusts her instincts. He did it. Others disagree, but she insists. He's a wolf in sheep's clothing. A scheming, self-serving man who sings sermons of tolerance, love and the dangers of gossip only as a smokescreen for his own wicked ways. She will catch him, and her brand of militant Christianity will cast him away!

The priest, of course, denies ever committing abuse. He insists that the nun is deeply misguided. She, he believes, is an authoritarian figure who has turned Christianity into a religion of fear, suspicion and intolerance. She, he insists, is on a quest to expunge symbols of tolerance and "progressivism" from the Church.

What follows is an epic battle of truth, doubt, denial and suspicion, but more importantly, a battle between two heavy weight acting legends. Meryl Streep plays the nun and Philip Seymour Hoffman the priest, and when the duo square off in a single room towards the film's climax, its hard not to grin. They spout dialogue like arrows, trade gazes like cannon fire, both actors showing shades of vulnerability, weakness, strength and righteousness. Who do we trust? Who do we side with? Who is right? Who is wrong? That the film keeps us enthralled and guessing so long is a testament to a tight script and some brilliant performances by both Streep and Hoffman.

8/10 – An excellent drama, marred only by an overly tidy ending. Makes a good companion piece to "The Magdalene Sisters" and "Black Narcissus".
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dynamite cast, if nothing else thought provoking, sublime direction
MisterWhiplash26 December 2008
This wasn't simply one of those "guessing-game" type of stories that come right out of the theater. It appears to be on first sight: simply, did Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) have "inappropriate contact" with the one black boy at the Bronx Catholic school, Donald Miller, in the rectory? Sister Aloysius (Streep) is certain as soon as she hears it from the un-certain Sister James (Adams). It should come down to a simple did-he-or-didn't-he, which for some will be obvious. But even if Doubt was just on that count, which it isn't, it would still be one powerful punch of drama. As it turns out it's not about the hot-button Priest-pedophilia topic, but about a class system, more than one, what turns some into hard-as-nails types like Sister Aloysius and defensive like Mrs. Miller (Davis), Donald's mother, and so seemingly caring like Flynn. What is authority, and how does one submit to right and wrong when things are completely out of balance, out of the tenants of Catholicism and just man vs. woman power struggles?

This movie made me think a lot - the outcome of Flynn particularly had me wondering, and then going back in my mind hours after the film ended to ponder the little moments that may (or may not, though more-so leaning towards definitely) gave him away to Aloysius. This is a major credit to Hoffman, who pulls out what I think is one of his top 3 or 4 performances (and think out of the cannon that comes from), who has such conviction as this priest, moments of tenderness and (possibly) righteous anger... and then those little moments, like when he suddenly asks Aloysius in the heat of their climactic argument "Have you never done wrong?" that suddenly really makes things interesting. This isn't just bombast between two heavyweights like Hoffman and Streep, but a master's class in subtlety, tone, the way a face looks when it tries to look controlled.

This is also for Streep one of her "BIG" performances- the kind where towards the very end, and you'll know the moment as it is in fact the last couple of lines she has, you just wish someone would knock an Oscar at her head and say 'hey, stop crying, you've earned it, again!- where what starts as a performance of amusing dimensions (we all know this teacher, whether or not you've gone to Catholic school, for me it was my own middle school principal Dr. Schwartz) transforms into something even trickier than Hoffman's performance, if that's possible: she's not some ruthless task-master or makes-your-blood-turn-cold type, but someone who wants to look out for her parish. And, perhaps, for her own salvation deep down.

I also shouldn't neglect to mention Amy Adams and especially Viola Davis; Adams has been around now for a little while, and has shown herself to be a wonderful actress, an innocent but easily troubled person of conscience who has a great scene when she gets tempered at a boy in class, but Davis, who mostly has character actor parts and TV work, steals her scene practically and goes head-to-head with Streep in one of those revelatory scenes that works on multiple levels. Rarely would I say an actor who appears for 10 or 12 minutes should get an Oscar but she too, probably more than Streep, should sweep it up- it is that heartbreaking and soulful and all that and a bag of acting chips.

But just so you don't think that Doubt is simply an actors film, the filmmaker, who's only previous directorial credit in film being Joe Vs the Volcano (and now, not too oddly enough, a Pulizter winner for this play), opens up the production to not feel simply stuffed into one or two rooms. This I would credit majorly to Roger Deakins who between this and Revolutionary Road (and in minor part as consultant on WALL-E) continues his hot streak as one of those artists I can gush about any time of day. Yet there's also intelligence in spurts to Shanley's style; pay attention to those shots when the camera is titled on a character- it happens during the talk between Flynn and James- and how those little symbolic touches like a burst lightbulb and wind and rain and leaves aren't just cheap little gimmicks. They're at least fun parts to the story.

In one of those mammoth Oscar seasons where the studios drop a lot of movies on somewhat unsuspecting audiences all at once (i.e. Revolutionary Road, the Wrestler, Defiance, the Reader), some better than others and some just overrated or flashy, Doubt can stand up against all of that. It's simply an excellent drama, filmed and acted in a manner that keeps the audience's attention completely centered. If you hear someone talking during any of the heated exchanges or quiet ones or just a momentary glance, they shouldn't go to see movies. Period.
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"Doubt": the controversial (and widely misunderstood) final scene
gcatelli18 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made." (Genesis 3:1, KJV)

"McCarthy was an asshole, but he was right about a lot of things." (Ed Harris as Parcher in "A Beautiful Mind")

what could be more morally repugnant than a person in an office of extraordinary trust robbing a child of his or her innocence of the dark side of adult sexual emotions?

how about a disdainful father inflicting intolerance-fueled violence upon that child?

what if the victim is a willing victim?

are there ways of knowing truth that evade the norms of justice? true story: a half dozen firefighters were putting out what seemed to be a fire well under control inside a dwelling. suddenly the lead fireman, a long-time veteran, ordered everyone out. moments later, the floor collapsed into an inferno blazing below. asked later how he knew, he couldn't explain it himself. he had been around a long time, and he just knew.

should someone's entire life's work be nullified and their career destroyed if their *alleged* heinousness hasn't been established to a moral certainty?

Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) opens "Doubt" with an absolutely superb soliloquy delivered as a sermon from the pulpit of his working class Catholic congregation. he preaches that doubters are no less a community than believers. as such, they are not lost and alone, just as believers are not lost and alone within their community of belief.

sitting in the back to insure her charges neither slouch nor whisper to one another, the parish-school principal, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), detects a whiff of "smoke".

shortly later, she asks a starry-eyed young nun, Sister James (Amy Adams), just what doubts of his own might have inspired Father Flynn's sermon topic?

eventually, a lot of smoke rises, but no flame can be proved. when Sister James expresses doubt that Father Flynn could be a moral monster, Sister Aloysius dismisses her naiveté.

but, when Sister Aloysius informs Mrs Miller (Viola Davis) that Father Flynn is abusing her son Donald (Joseph Foster), it is Sister Aloysius who seems naive. in a gut-wrenching performance deserving of an Oscar, Viola Davis, burdened by handicaps of race, gender, and class beyond the ken of a white nun, tearfully explains that, all things considered, the current arrangement is Donald's only chance to get into college.

the idealistic Sister James believes Father Flynn's dodgy explanations. the intolerant Sister Aloysius dryly remarks, "you just want your simplicity back". moral complexity and ambiguity are the tightly woven warp and woof of this superb film achievement.

about the final scene: based upon many user comments, and even the (user-written) "FAQ", it seems many viewers of "Doubt" believe that in the final scene Sister Aloysius is expressing her own doubts about the guilt of Father Flynn. some commenters were angered and offended, asserting that writer/director John Patrick Shanley was casting doubt as to the guilt of pedophile priests generally. others felt it was a disappointing contrivance lacking conviction and credibility.

this is an unfortunate misreading of the film. since "Doubt" was written at the height of the recent scandal, and since Shanley is no "Sister James" himself, he would not have intentionally cast doubt on Flynn's guilt. but, if it were his intent, he failed. his script makes clear beyond a reasonable doubt that Flynn is as guilty as OJ. to avoid adding more spoilers, i will just expand on the smoke/fire metaphor: there wasn't just "smoke" -- there were fire engines up and down the block, people screaming from windows, and someone running from the scene holding an empty gasoline bucket.

instead, the final scene bookmarks the sermon that opens "Doubt". as already mentioned, it begins with Father Flynn's preaching that doubters are as much a community (and perhaps by implication, a communion) as those who unquestioningly believe in the Gospels, and the Catholic Church and its sacraments as the sole path to eternal salvation. Sister Aloysius, who seems to have never harbored a doubt about anything, self-righteously (even smugly) wonders: just what does Father Flynn have his doubts about?

she has devoted her life as a widow-turned-nun to following the directives of the Church in the heretofore unshakable belief that this was the best way, indeed the only way, to guide all "her children" to salvation in the hereafter. however, from the beginning of "Doubt" Sister Aloysius has been experiencing the public face of Vatican II (still in session in 1964) as stepping onto the slippery slope toward secularism, or even paganism. by the end, she is seeing the Church's hierarchy as an old-boy network that protects its own, even its rottenest apples.

in the final scene, Sister Aloysius bitterly reflects that this old-boy network has promoted an obvious "arsonist" to heading up an entire fire company. given her already dark view of the human condition, she probably has surmised that if the Church hierarchy is covering up for one pedophile, it's also covering up for others. therefore, her doubt is a *crisis-of-faith* (not reservations about the guilt of a slithery serpent such as Flynn).

Shanley isn't questioning the guilt of pedophile priests, or the Church's complicity in their crimes. in fact, he's laying it out for all to see. instead, he's dramatizing how profoundly shaken this shocking moral and criminal horror left even the most faithful of believers.

(special note to those reviewers who have caviled about Meryl Streep's interpretation of Sister Aloysius: Joan Crawford is supposed to have once said, "if you want the girl-next-door, go next door." by analogy, if you don't want to see Meryl Streep's interpretation of a larger-than-life "dragon" of a nun {Father Flynn's wry description of her from the outset}, then don't watch Meryl Streep.)
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