Monday, December 22, 2008

Doubt: Another Must See

I hate it when most of the really, really good movies come out in December. Is it really because the people who vote on the Oscars have a short memory or don't keep a list? In any event, I had to see Doubt and I had to do it before Christmas, when it is still playing at only one theater in all of metro Atlanta. Yeah, I fought the traffic, but what a delight of a film.

John Patrick Shanley's well-directed film (from his award-winning stage play) is about doubt versus certainty. Set in the bleak winter of 1964 at St. Nicholas Catholic School in the Bronx, the movie pits the very strict principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) against the new priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Aloysius doesn't seem to like the more accessible, loving, and good-hearted priest from the start, and when there is just the least bit of evidence that would incriminate the Father with "you know what," the Sister goes for the jugular.

The Sister is immediately certain that Flynn is guilty. The facts and denials cannot dissuade her. There is no doubt even though she cannot prove it. Even after Sister James (Amy Adams), who originally brought her suspicions to Aloysius, believes she was wrong about what happened and that the Father is innocent, Aloysius maintains her certainty. Sister James is dismissed as just wanting "simplicity" back.

The film becomes a war of wills between Father Flynn and Sister Aloysius. With two very gifted actors in these roles, it is a masterpiece. Kudos also to Viola Davis for the heartfelt performance as the mother of the student in question.