Thursday, December 4, 2008

Movie review: ‘Doubt’

A discomforting evening
with a couple of Oscar winners

Take a very intelligent and friendly priest, add a no-nonsense nun running the parish school, throw in an eighth-grade boy whose parents sense he might have homosexual leanings, and you’ve got the seeds for “Doubt” – a powerful drama opening in a week or so in movie theaters across the nation.

But it probably won’t be out there long before heading to the video store market.

And that’s not because of the Oscar-winner casting of Philip Seymour Hoffman as the priest and Meryl Streep as the principal, or any number of terrific supporting players; nor is it for any lack of tautness in the script, or timeliness and timelessness of the issue.

It’s just slow, carefully drawn and adapted by John Patrick Shanley from his Pulitzer Prize-winning play set in 1964, dealing with a topic so powerfully uncomfortable: The sexual abuse of boys by priests.

In this case, there’s precious little evidence – only the strong suspicion of the priest by the principal. And she conveys that feeling to the idealistic teacher of the boy, who is the lone African-American pupil in the school, and to his mother, whose own protective desires are based on more immediately threatening fears for his safety from peers and a physically abusive husband.

Every moment, every subtle movement of children in the school, even the lifting of a fork at the nuns’ dinner table, carries overtones about the character of the key players, in a tale that can have no happy ending.

The photography and settings are stunningly real, the classroom scenes vivid, the action almost entirely psychological, and the performances riveting – the aging Streep’s, in particular, likely to bring an Academy Award nomination.

Trouble is, it’s all so discomforting – and maybe a little overblown, metaphorically, including entirely too many scenes of flying leaves.

In the end, “Doubt” left me in doubt, as well... suspicious, but uncertain, of whether the priest did it; maybe more concerned about what happens to characters like the young nun and the boy, whose further paths are not addressed; and walking out of the theater into a real world that seems ever more disconcerting.

1 comment:

movie links said...

I think doubt is a fair movie which get a glimpse on undiscovered parts of the religious establishments. of course Seymour with a great acting. I'll rate it 8.5.