Friday, December 19, 2008

Confidently Acted DOUBT

DOUBT tells the story of a straight-laced school principal who suspects the parish priest of sexually molesting one of the young male students. All four of the film's principal characters received acting nominations from both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors' Guild in the last week. Frankly, along with MILK and THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, it is one of the finely acted films this year. Having said that, DOUBT is more of an actor's film than anything else.

I saw John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize winning play on Broadway back in 2005, the night before it won the Tony Award for Best Play. I knew even then it was taking home the top prize. The production was simply powerful and I just thought both Cherry Jones and Brian F. O'Byrne were phenomenal. So imagine my skepticism when they announced a couple of years later that a film adaptation was in the works with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman tapped to co-star. I was mildly disappointed that out lesbian actress Jones would not be recreating her role as Sr. Aloysius but also excited to see what Streep was going to do with the character. On the other hand, I thought PSH was possibly miscast and wished O'Byrne would reprise his role as the handsome, charismatic and magnetic Fr. Flynn. I think he would have been more believable and more effectively cast a doubt as to the character's guilt.

The film's transition from the stage to the big screen isn't as successful as I wanted it to be. Somehow, moving most of the action away from the principal's office diminishes the intimacy of the characters' interactions and the immediacy of the molestation issue. It is also more effective when the audiences are not privy to what happens in the classrooms or behind the altar. Then we feel the struggle of the nuns just as much and makes it difficult for us to have any kind of certainty ourselves.

DOUBT is still a finely crafted film. The great acting is already worth the price of admission. And I have to admit that PSH was a good choice. Any less actor would have been swallowed whole by the bravura performance of Streep.
~Michael Gamilla
DOUBT opens in Rochester on Christmas Day.


Anonymous said...



radioman said...

It's always difficult to take a fine play to the screen, just as it's often risky to try to put a Broadway musical onto the big screen, which, in my lifetime, has failed more than it has succeeded.

When you see a marvelous play like DOUBT it can be scary to think what Hollywood names they are going to bring in for the film version. In this case however, I was not disappointed, as Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are two of my favorite actors.
I liked the movie very much, and if Streep wins the Oscar for Best Actress and Sean Penn wins for best actor in MILK, I won't be disappointed.

Michael G said...

I'm hoping Meryl Streep wins her second Best Actress Oscar (she has another Supporting Actress trophy at home). If Jodie and Hillary can have two, Meryl definitely deserves more Oscar trophies on her mantle. However, I'm very surprised that she isn't getting more love from the various critics' awards already announced. I think her performances are always held up to a higher standard than everyone else. Although I must say that I haven't seen HAPPY-GO-LUCKY so I can't get behind all the acclaim that Sally Hawkins is getting just yet. I think the dark horses are Anne Hathaway (RACHEL GETTING MARRIED) and Kate Winslet (REVOLUTIONARY ROAD). I want to at least see Kristin Scott Thomas nominated for her wonderfully understated performance in I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG. It's another tough competition among the actresses this year.