Doubt

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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:34 pm

Hollywood Reporter has no problem with Streep's performance, but takes issue with the source material:

Film Review: Doubt
By Kirk Honeycutt
Nov 6, 2008


"Doubt"

Opens: Friday, Dec. 12 (Miramax Films)

"Doubt," John Patrick Shanley's award-winning play and now a movie version he has directed, tackles the subject of pedophilia and paranoia in the Catholic Church in a subversive and perhaps even an unfair manner.

As with Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," this play's witchhunt is based on nothing more than gossip. Only in this instance, Shanley hints the gossip might be true. This is a bit like doing the story of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and digging up a guy who, among the thousands he accused of being Red, actually is a communist.

However one reacts to this reversal of expectations, "Doubt" sets off dramatic fireworks thanks to a cast of antagonists that includes Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. The film should find receptive adult audiences in December and could get an added boost when award-season honors trickle in. Nevertheless, the film will have its doubters.


In 1964 at St. Nicholas in the Bronx, the battle lines are clear. On one side is Sister Aloysius, an exquisite exaggeration of every Catholic schoolboy's favorite tough nun horror story. As played by Streep, this school principal is the devil minus the Prada. An advocate of tradition and rigid authoritarianism, she stands firmly against change. Certainly the school's first black student, Donald (Joseph Foster II), was not her idea.

On the other side is a charismatic, youthful priest, Father Flynn, who rides on the winds of change sweeping the Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. He favors a more open and friendly rapport with students that recognizes emotional needs, not just academic ones. As played by Hoffman, an actor capable of enormous warmth, you would want him as your father confessor.

Then Donald's teacher, Sister James -- Adams laying on the teary-eyed innocence far too heavily -- has a suspicion. Father Flynn called Donald to the rectory one day and Donald returned with what she thought was the smell of alcohol on his breath. This is all it takes for Sister Aloysius go to war with Father Flynn. She declares she needs no proof of impropriety: "I have my certainty," she declares.

Sister Aloysius' meeting with Donald's mother (Viola Davis in a very strong scene) contains the first hint that the truth will be murky at best. The mother's only concern is that her son (who, she explains, is "that way") will not be killed by a father who dislikes him. At least the priest is an adult male who takes time to help the boy, whatever his motives.

So Shanley's shell games reveal itself: Father Flynn's sunny exterior hides potential darkness, while Sister Aloysius' crusty medievalism covers her own doubts and compassion. The problem will be that until the film's final line, Streep's old-school principal lacks transparency. There is never a flash of decency or concern for the boy in question. He is only a tool for her vengeance.

This stems partially from Shanley's writing. He presents an old nun angry at anything new and modern. There is a constant, heavily metaphorical wind throughout the movie, and Sister Aloysius even mutters that the wind has changed from the old days. Someone who believes such things does not inspire confidence in her sixth sense for child predators.

Shanley has opened up the play for sequences outside the church and school to give a sense of a community buffeted not only by winds but outside events. Kennedy's assassination still hangs heavily over the largely Irish and Italian parish.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins' slanted camera angles portray a world where things are out of kilter. David Gropman's production design emphasizes a bleak traditionalism that will soon explode into a counterculturalism that, at least from Shanley's viewpoint, can lead to child abuse. The film is nothing if not provocative.
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Postby Big Magilla » Thu Nov 06, 2008 7:10 pm

Sonic Youth wrote:Todd McCarthy from Variety:

"The considerable integrity and strength of John Patrick Shanley’s play prevail despite a questionable central performance in 'Doubt.' "

As was evident from the trailer.

Wells isn't the only one ballyhooing Viola Davis as you guys should know from the E.T. Predictions thread.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Nov 06, 2008 6:42 pm

Todd McCarthy from Variety:

"The considerable integrity and strength of John Patrick Shanley’s play prevail despite a questionable central performance in 'Doubt.' Stepping back behind the camera for the first time since his misguided 'Joe Versus the Volcano' in 1990, Shanley capably retains the power of his study of unsubstantiated moral convictions gone tragically awry, and the extensive opening up of his four-character, 90-minute 2005 Pulitzer and Tony Award winner adds in social context what it loses in sharply focused intensity. Miramax has plenty here to build this intelligent, absorbing drama into a strong B.O. performer with a discerning public looking for movies that are actually about something."

And I won't even post the rest of the review. Just click here to see who gave the unsatisfying performance, IHO.
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Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 31, 2008 4:11 pm

I completely agree. I'm just saying that Jeffrey Wells has become fanatical about Viola Davis now.
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Postby OscarGuy » Fri Oct 31, 2008 3:45 pm

Let's take the NY Post piece with a grain of salt. After all, it was screened for friends and admirers of the play, which means there's an existing bias. Of course, it could easily live up to expectations, so we'll have to wait and see.
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Postby Sabin » Fri Oct 31, 2008 3:37 pm

Jeffrey Wells is reporting that Viola Davis apparently KILLS in her few scenes and should be an immediate front-runner.
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Postby Damien » Fri Oct 31, 2008 3:00 pm

From the NY Post:

NO 'DOUBT' OF SUCCESS
By MICHAEL RIEDEL
October 29, 2008 --

JOHN Patrick Shanley may take a few hits today from critics for his musical "Romantic Poetry" [see review below], but when the movie version of his Tony-winning play "Doubt" premieres, he's going to be wrapped in raves and Oscar nominations.

The movie - which stars Meryl Streep as a nun who suspects a priest, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, of molesting a boy - isn't due out until December. But last week Shanley hosted a small, informal screening for some friends, cast members from the Broadway production and a few early champions of the play (that's how I managed to slip in - I saw "Doubt" four times and would go again this week if it were still running).

On hand were Arthur Laurents, Nora Ephron, Nick

Pileggi, Arthur and Barbara Gelb, Tony Kushner and Paul Rudnick.

The reaction was pretty overwhelming, the consensus being that, as a stage-to-film transfer, "Doubt" ranks right up there with "The Little Foxes," "Picnic" and "Inherit the Wind."

During one of the crackling confrontations between Streep and Hoffman, William Goldman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter whose credits include "Marathon Man," "All the President's Men" and "The Princess Bride," exclaimed, "Wonderful - this is just wonderful!"

At the end of the movie, Goldman sang along with the choir music that accompanied the credits.

Later, he told me: "This is just a little New York movie, not a Hollywood blockbuster, but it's got to get some nominations. It's as good a piece of period work as I've seen. And Meryl Streep is just a great f - - - ing film actress."

The movie, which Shanley wrote and directed, is set in The Bronx in 1964. Much of it was shot on location at St. Anthony's School in The Bronx, which he attended as a boy.

The movie retains the dramatic fireworks of the play - fireworks that come from its pungent dialogue - while at the same time evoking the stillness of the cloister.

"I wanted to make a movie that was very quiet, because in those times, in the part of The Bronx where I grew up, it was a more peaceful time, at least on the face of it," Shanley says.

"We weren't dealing with the kind of hyperactivity we have in society today at every level. My parents didn't have credit cards or a checking account. They went to get money orders. The change from using fountain pens to ballpoint pens was significant because it meant things were becoming more disposable."

The ballpoint pen has a nice cameo in the movie, despised as it is by Sister Aloysius, a fierce protector of proper penmanship.

When the priest takes out a ballpoint, Sister Aloysius - already repulsed by his folksy sermons, long fingernails and predilection for three lumps of sugar in his tea - raises an eyebrow and says: "May I ask what you wrote down? With that ballpoint pen."

Streep, her face parched, her lips cracked, makes a frightening but very funny Sister Aloysius.

At the screening, no one was laughing heartier than the brilliant Cherry Jones, who created the part and won a Tony for it.

"Before I made the offer to Meryl, I wrote Cherry a long letter and FedExed it to her on the road, where she was touring with 'Doubt,' " says Shanley.

"I explained that Doug Hughes directed the play so well and that Cherry, who was dynamite, was his idea," he says. "If I was going to do the movie, I had to have my own take on the thing.

"She called me and said: 'I want one thing. Invite me to the premiere.' "
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Postby flipp525 » Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:35 am

The Original BJ wrote:It does seem to give away a little too much, though, I think.

This was my biggest critique of the trailer. It goes on way too long and gives away too much, especially for those who might be unfamiliar with the play.

With that said, the performances, particularly those by Amy Adams and Viola Davis, look quite powerful. I expect this film to yield some acting nominations at the very least.




Edited By flipp525 on 1221482888
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Postby Damien » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:29 am

Miss Streep's looks like a dreadful performance. And the film itself looks to be the same mediocrity as the play.
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Postby The Original BJ » Mon Sep 15, 2008 12:38 am

This trailer actually helped quell some of my reservations. Clearly the play has been open up and expanded significantly. No doubt the film still might come off as stagy, but this looks like a good start.

Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman looks a lot less skeevy than he could, thank heavens.

It does seem to give away a little too much, though, I think.

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Postby Big Magilla » Sun Sep 14, 2008 11:47 pm

Wow! My perception of this film has completely changed.

Philip Seymour Hoffman looks like he gives a multi-faceted performance, while Meryl Streep looks totally one-note.
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Postby barrybrooks8 » Sun Sep 14, 2008 9:36 pm

THRILLED!
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Postby Penelope » Sun Sep 14, 2008 8:14 pm

The trailer is available.
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