Doubt

FilmFan720
Tenured
Posts: 3453
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 3:57 pm
Location: Illinois

Postby FilmFan720 » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:46 am

I think that the play reads much more ambivalently than the film does, mostly because of the flaws of the film (and especially showing us the relationship between Father Flynn and the boy...there was something inherently creepy about that toy). I liked Hoffman a lot, but he doesn't especially exude holier-than-thouness which hurts the film also. I wasn't sold on either side, but felt a lot stronger about it than in the stage play.

Adams was better than I expected, but she was still too one-note (which seems to be everyone's problem in the film). Streep is better than she has been in recent years, but I realized something about her halfway through the film. Has she ever made an unsafe acting choice? Nothing about her performance here surprised me because it is exactly how the role reads on the page. It seems like almost every performance of hers is this way: she is very good, but never takes a big gamble on a performance.
"Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good."
- Minor Myers, Jr.

User avatar
OscarGuy
Site Admin
Posts: 12547
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 12:22 am
Location: Springfield, MO
Contact:

Postby OscarGuy » Mon Dec 29, 2008 11:25 am

May have some spoilers.

Ok. I'm curious, not having seen the stage play, what the general consensus is about whether he did it or not. I firmly believed at the end that he did it. I had no doubt whatsoever. So, I'm curious why some people think he's innocent. The cite Streep's final statements that she has doubts about her persecution, but someone else suggested that she has doubts in her faith now that he has gotten his promotion. What is the prevailing sentiment on this? The final confession of doubts was confusing for me as I didn't understand its purpose at all, but the above suggestions have confirmed for me that I believe she now doubts her faith that someone she had no doubt was guilty would get a promotion from the brotherhood.

For me, I didn't care much for Amy Adams. It seemed too similar to her work in Enchanted. She seems to have gotten typecast. She had few less happy moments that seemed more genuine, but when she went into happy mode it seemed all the more insincere. I didn't like Hoffman. Sure he exploded in the scenes he needed to, but it all felt so exaggerated. On the other hand, Streep, who I have gotten quite tired of as most of you know, was the best I've seen her in some time. While Devil Wears Prada was an interesting comic performance, I think this is her best work in some time. I felt she blended into the role quite well. The only time I really didn't care much for her performance was the final breakdown which felt disjointed.

Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts on this to see how others who have actually seen the play or been involved in that New York Theatre scene might have felt about the outcome.
Wesley Lovell
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." - Benjamin Franklin

FilmFan720
Tenured
Posts: 3453
Joined: Thu Jan 02, 2003 3:57 pm
Location: Illinois

Postby FilmFan720 » Tue Dec 23, 2008 4:53 pm

I caught this last night, and everyone here has pretty much captured the film for me: it is a good adaptation, they shouldn't have showed the boy, it will get 4 acting nods, Hoffman is lead and Viola Davis steals the film. Streep is fine, but nowhere near the glory and humanity that Cherry Jones captured in this role.
"Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good."
- Minor Myers, Jr.

User avatar
flipp525
Laureate
Posts: 5830
Joined: Thu Jan 09, 2003 7:44 am

Postby flipp525 » Fri Dec 19, 2008 6:31 pm

Worth seeing for Viola Davis' knockout performance. She takes the entire film, puts it in her pocket and walks away with it in one scene.

Amy Adams, who for some reason I wasn't expecting much from in this, was very good as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see them both nominated for Best Supporting Actress come January.

The play needed to flesh out the reasons why Sister Alyosius would, so quickly and so fervently, jump to molestation given its inherent anachronism to the mid 1960's sensibilities. The scene that rang the truest (besides Davis') was the brief snippet of the priests all har-har-harring together at dinner. It sealed the idea of a brotherhood of secrecy that was unexplored in the film, yet undoubtedly (snerk...) responsible for covering up such cases in real life back then.




Edited By flipp525 on 1229733052
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."

-Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15737
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:21 pm

I hate to beat a dead horse to the ground, but The Sisters of Charity don't look anything like the Amish either. Here's a full page of the sisters in full habit:

http://www.sistersofcharity.com/pictures.htm

By the way, I caught the USA Today article on Friday. I loved your quote, but the rest of the article was a puff piece on Saint Meryl, not a brief istory of nuns in film as it appeared to be.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

User avatar
Damien
Laureate
Posts: 6331
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:43 pm
Location: New York, New York
Contact:

Postby Damien » Sun Dec 14, 2008 3:14 pm

There was a correction in today's NY Times saying that an article about Doubt in last Sunday's paper erroneously identified the Order as the Sisters of Mercy, whereas it is really the Sisters of Charity, which I suppose is still Shanley irony.

By the way, interesting USA Today article about nuns and the movies, witha brief quote from me.

http://www.usatoday.com/life/movies/news/2008-12-11-doubt-nuns_N.htm
"Y'know, that's one of the things I like about Mitt Romney. He's been consistent since he changed his mind." -- Christine O'Donnell

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6504
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Dec 13, 2008 7:41 pm

My recollection is, these habits (the same Cherry Jones wore in the play) are the ones nuns used in whatever school Shanley went to in the Bronx, so I believe they're authentic. (Though they do look quaint)

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15737
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Dec 13, 2008 7:26 pm

I don't think that's wimple (head covering) of The Sisters of Mercy, which I believe is the traditional squared, long flowing one of most orders.



Edited By Big Magilla on 1229734440
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

User avatar
Damien
Laureate
Posts: 6331
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:43 pm
Location: New York, New York
Contact:

Postby Damien » Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:49 pm

Big Magilla wrote:The other thing that seems odd to me, still not having seen the play or the film, is the choice of habit the nuns wear. They look more like Amish women than Catholic nuns in those things. What order are they supposed be?

The Sisters of Mercy -- which I suppose is Shanley being ironic.
"Y'know, that's one of the things I like about Mitt Romney. He's been consistent since he changed his mind." -- Christine O'Donnell

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15737
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Postby Big Magilla » Sat Dec 13, 2008 5:13 pm

The Original BJ wrote:Last, I have to express that, on the whole, I find this material pretty anachronistic. Given how little any of the characters actually see, it seems to me that jumping to conclusions of molestation seems odd for the era. (Though perhaps some of my seniors on the board might correct me.) Today a teacher lays a hand on a student and people cry abuse, but in those days would such a mind set be so prevalent?

I have to agree with Damien and Tee, this is extremely anachronistic. Although my close inter-action with nuns was a little earlier (the 1950s), they had not changed by the mid-sixties, late 1960s when some orders dropped the habit maybe, but before that we prety much saw nuns as sexless creatures who would not have remotely consdier sexual abuse by priests even if it were going on under their noses.

The other thing that seems odd to me, still not having seen the play or the film, is the choice of habit the nuns wear. They look more like Amish women than Catholic nuns in those things. What order are they supposed be?




Edited By Big Magilla on 1229206447
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6504
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:50 pm

I'll back Damien up, and I have serious credentials to do so: in 1964, I was in 8th grade at St. Teresa's School in Sunnyside, Queens -- and the school had just admitted its first black student that year (two grades below me). This locates me about as close to Shanley's world as I could have been without being a classmate.

The idea that priests would be molesting boys would never have crossed the mind of anyone back then. If there was anything spoken of sub rosa, it might have been that certain pairs of nuns seemed to hang out together a bit too much, but even there the pevailing Catholic reverence for clergy and convent would have made such insinuations the province of the most subversive -- not an authoritarian nun.

Even later, when the first stories started popping up about certain fathers and their favorite altar boys, the accusations came from and were supported by those on the left, and pretty much viciously rebutted by the hardcore religionists.

On the other hand, Shanley probably does have it right that there were strong conflicts -- if not in '64, by '67 or '68 --, between enthusiastic Vatican II-ers and the reactionaries, so a war between representatives of the two is believable. I just think it's unlikely the nun in question would have chosen this particular weapon.




Edited By Mister Tee on 1229205230

User avatar
Damien
Laureate
Posts: 6331
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 8:43 pm
Location: New York, New York
Contact:

Postby Damien » Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:29 pm

The Original BJ wrote:Last, I have to express that, on the whole, I find this material pretty anachronistic. Given how little any of the characters actually see, it seems to me that jumping to conclusions of molestation seems odd for the era. (Though perhaps some of my seniors on the board might correct me.) Today a teacher lays a hand on a student and people cry abuse, but in those days would such a mind set be so prevalent?

I didn't care for the play at all, and this was one of the main reason. Both the main situation and the dialogue about it seemed entirely anachronistic to me -- it was 21st century attitudes, actions and rhetoric awkwardly transposed onto the Johnson era.
"Y'know, that's one of the things I like about Mitt Romney. He's been consistent since he changed his mind." -- Christine O'Donnell

The Original BJ
Emeritus
Posts: 4207
Joined: Mon Apr 28, 2003 8:49 pm

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Dec 13, 2008 4:06 pm

I saw Doubt at a midnight showing the other night (didn't entirely realize prestige pics got midnight showings, but it's at least cool in concept), and I mostly had my ambivalent feelings toward this perplexingly acclaimed material confirmed. Add to that the "why-is-this-a-film?" element -- although early scenes have been appropriately expanded, as the film proceeds it feels more and more claustrophobic and stagey -- and you've got a watchable but mostly unremarkable picture.

Count me as one who thinks the water cooler element of the story ("did he or didn't he?") isn't particularly interesting. I thought the play clearly suggested one outcome over the other, and, furthermore, I'm not sure what's so deep about all of this. Aside from the scene with Mrs. Miller, the boy's mother, which adds an interesting and surprising element to the narrative, I don't feel the story really goes anywhere, at least not anywhere you wouldn't expect. Despite the weighty topic, it's never felt to me like there was much there there.

The main aspect which has changed, and it's not necessarily a good change, is the introduction of the possibly-molested boy as a character in the film. First off, he's played by a young actor who I didn't much care for -- I found his longing glances toward the priest somewhat off (even humorous at times). But more importantly, I think it's more effective if we DON'T see the child, so the story feels more about hearsay and gossip. (I get that in film this isn't really practical, but there still could have been a middle ground -- showing the boy as a character but limiting his affectionate scenes with Hoffman's character.)

Meryl Streep gives a fine, detailed performance, but one that lacks the sheer force of Cherry Jones's stage work. Hoffman, an actor I've often liked (unlike some on this board), is, as I've said before, all wrong for the role. He projects sleaze, not charm, and it's difficult to understand why a child might be drawn to someone like him. (And good god, this is not a supporting performance by any stretch of the imagination.) Amy Adams is lovely, as usual. As expected, it's Viola Davis who's the standout -- she's got the knockout scene and she nails it, anchoring the film emotionally and spinning it in new directions with just a few brief moments.

Last, I have to express that, on the whole, I find this material pretty anachronistic. Given how little any of the characters actually see, it seems to me that jumping to conclusions of molestation seems odd for the era. (Though perhaps some of my seniors on the board might correct me.) Today a teacher lays a hand on a student and people cry abuse, but in those days would such a mind set be so prevalent?

Mister Tee
Laureate
Posts: 6504
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 2:57 pm
Location: NYC
Contact:

Postby Mister Tee » Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:22 am

ScreenDaily, for the record. The Streep-loathing seems to be mostly a Variety thing.

Doubt
Brent Simon in Los Angeles
07 Nov 2008 08:38

Dir: John Patrick Shanley. US. 2008. 104 mins.

A performance-centred adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's own 2005 Tony Award-winning powerhouse stageplay, Doubt is an effectively ambiguous, high-pedigree adult drama that entangles viewers in slow, sure-handed fashion. Intimately constructed, tightly wound and above all trusting of an audience's appreciation for textual subtlety, the film is sure to be short-listed in several of the main categories this awards season.

Doubt is thematically reminiscent of David Mamet's Oleanna, another streamlined, character-focused piece hinging on the audience's interpretation of a charged event (which in this case takes place offscreen). Considerable critical and awards attention should power mid-level box office when this opens in the US on December 12, and international interest should be fairly strong as well given the film's religious overtones.

Set in 1964, the film unfolds at St. Nicholas, a private Catholic academy in New York's Bronx where the middle school students live in fear of the imperious Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep), the school's principal. Much more sympathetic to the difficulties of adolescence is Father Flynn (Hoffman), the relatively new parish priest who seems attuned to the waves of societal change spreading across the country.

When Father Flynn seems to take a special interest in the school's first African-American student, Donald (Foster II), history teacher Sister Marie James (Adams) becomes suspicious and reports her concerns to Sister Beauvier. Despite a lack of any firm evidence other than her own sense of moral certainty, Sister Beauvier becomes convinced that Father Flynn has made inappropriate sexual advances to Donald, and ignites a battle of wills in an effort to oust him from the school. Is he guilty, and will he confess?

In adapting the material for the screen, Shanley neither tries to greatly expand the scope of the story, nor inflate the narrative with fancy directorial tricks. Shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins in muted tones that convincingly convey autumnal chill, even indoors, the movie frequently feels as if it takes place in its own sealed biosphere in the best possible sense.

While pederast Catholic priest jokes entered the mainstream over the past decade, and would seemingly work against the suspense of the did-he-or-didn't-he element of the story, Shanley does a fantastic job of sketching out the interior lives of the characters, in particular Father Flynn, which, when separated from their actions, gives the film a further moral complexity, and greyness.

The centrepiece is a fabulous sequence between Flynn and Sisters Beauvier and James, in which tea and the pretence of a discussion about the coming Christmas play give way to a much more direct confrontation than we have anticipated. Shanley directs this extended scene, but also a few others, as essentially chess matches. Given that so many films trade in only the quick turn of emotion necessary to immediately advance plot, it's a rare treat to watch the full arc of an emotional reaction in several self-contained scenes.

Streep's engrossing performance seems a lock for her 15th Oscar nomination. It begins as an exercise in terseness, all clipped tones and slightly accented scolding. As the movie unfolds, however, there are even a few flashes of humanising humour and Sister Beauvier blossoms into a character every bit as complex as Father Flynn.

As Flynn, meanwhile, Hoffman's righteousness gives the film a compelling counterweight. Playing Donald's mother, Viola Davis makes a strong impression in her one, extended scene, and could see some attention in Best Supporting Actress categories.

Big Magilla
Site Admin
Posts: 15737
Joined: Wed Jan 01, 2003 3:22 pm
Location: Jersey Shore

Postby Big Magilla » Fri Nov 07, 2008 3:59 am

Here's Wells on the film:

I got into a disagreement with a fellow columnist after last week's screening of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt. He didn't have a problem with the acting or the writing or the general thrust of it, even, but he felt it "wasn't visual enough." I gathered that he wanted to see Doubt meets Children of Men. Something swoopier, fiercer, crazier...whatever.

The irony for me is that the visual delivery in this film (and I don't just mean the beautifully muted fall-winter colors in Roger Deakins' cinematography) is just right. Shanley's direction serves the holy grail of the text and lets the performers -- Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Viola Davis, Amy Adams -- do their stuff. They do that and more. And when it's over you know you've bitten into something, or it's bitten into you.

There's so much to be said for a contained and compressed high-pedigree drama that does exactly what it intends to do, and is very content with this. A film without lunging, stumbles or missteps. Doubt doesn't waste a frame or a line or a single shot, and it leaves you hanging in just the right way. That is to say it disturbs and agitates without resorting to easy catharsis. A play this well served isn't just a play well served. It morphs into something else -- a dramatic life form of its own.

This is why I feel it's Best Picture material. The chops and the content serve the whole and vice versa. And, like I said last week, when you throw in Deakins' cinematography it's even more of a feat. Doubt is a smallish film -- a story about ambiguity and uncertainty among a small group of people in two or three rooms with a hallway and a park thrown in -- that acts and in fact becomes "big" because of its sharpness and discipline. There's really no way to assail it that cuts any ice with me.

Todd McCarthy's Variety review aside, I loved Streep's performance as Sister Aloysius Beauvier. She's the very model of a pinched and joyless crone, an old-school harridan with a habit -- the kind of nun that used to try and "beat an education" into Marlon Brando's Terry Malloy. The fact that she's a kind of beast and that Streep lets you know precisely what's going on in her harshly judgmental head is, for me, a trip. She's almost Mommie Dearest, and I mean that as a genuine compliment.

If I still got high I would get royally blitzed next month and go see Doubt with friends and quietly chuckle at every gesture.

And I don't mean she tries for comedy. The genius of Streep's performance is that you can take her work as dead straight drama or a hoot, depending on your mood or attitude. What counts is that you can sit there and read her each and every second. There's never any doubt what she's thinking, intuiting, suspecting.

Set in the Bronx in 1964, inside a grim Catholic school called St. Nicholas, Shanley's play is basically about Sister Beauvier's growing suspicions that Father Flynn (Hoffman) has gotten a bit too intimate -- perhaps more than that -- with an African-American altar boy named Donald (Joseph Foster II).

But it's not just an "is he or isn't he?" thing. Shanley's play is clean and precise in the way the themes of the piece are made unmistakable from the get-go. "What do you do when you're not sure?" Flynn asks in his opening-scene sermon. And yet Streep is sure -- she doesn't allow for any overt uncertainty because she damn well knows. And she may be right, we come to realize.

But is she in fact that? Is Hoffman's priest a born diddler -- a Johnson-era manifestation of a malignancy that has turned the Catholic church's rep into a sick joke over the last decade or so? Or is he being steamrolled to some extent? Or maybe a little bit, at least?

Doubt's dramatic peak comes when Sister Aloysius has a frank conversation with Donald's mom (Davis) about what may in fact be going on. The scene is harrowing because of what Davis does with it. Streep pretty much listens and reacts and slowly becomes more and more appalled as she considers the mother's rationalizations -- her fear of going into this realm, knowing or believing as she does that it's not Father Flynn as much as...well, let's not spoil.

The scene lasts only ten or twelve minutes, but Davis' performance is Beatrice Straight great -- and if you have to ask what that means, forget it. It's a bulls-eye performance that everyone but everyone is going to have to acknowledge.

Hoffman's Flynn delivers...how to say it? A pervy but earnest ambiguity. Your gut tells you he's probably a pederast, certainly in terms of latent desire, but at the same time something tells you he may not quite be. He may finally be a straddler, and that in itself is not a punishable offense.

Adams plays a kindly young nun who senses the undercurrents and cross-currents as clearly as Streep does, but whose function is mainly to emotionally telegraph all this to the slower folks in the audience.

There's no coming out of Doubt and going "meh." There's nothing amiss about any of it. Okay, it's not madly David Fincher or Alfonso Cuaron but it is like a kind of perfect moral swiss watch, and such things are very hard to sculpt in just the right way. Anyone who sees it and shrugs is looking into some kind of cavern of their own soul. Every move is nailed down tight in this thing. And class, focus and discipline can't be faked. Either a film has these things in abundance or it doesn't. There's no ambiguity here.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire


Return to “2008”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest