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Doubt (2008)

July 2, 2009

8/10 Angry Catholics

I like watching talking heads movies with good actors in them. Especially when the actors yell at each other a lot. That’s a big reason why I like this movie.

Doubt takes place in 1964 and is about a mean old nun played by Meryl Streep who serves as a kind of dean of discipline to a Catholic High School in the Bronx that has recently gone under new management by a progressive priest played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. Things are initially copacetic between the two, but when the new priest starts to take the only black student in the school under his wing, seeds of doubt are planted in the nun’s head and she goes on a freaking rampage to prove that he’s sexually molesting the boy.

Catholic High Schools used to be crazy.

Adapted from a stage play by writer/director John Patrick Shanley, Doubt is very straightforward as a movie but very ambiguous as a script. The draw to the story is that it doesn’t tell you what happened and that you’re pretty much left to form your own opinions on what’s occurring behind closed doors based off the testimonials of a few choice characters who may or may not be reliable in regards to anything that they’re saying.

It all works really well and holy crap is it intense. I love movies that only need good dialogue and some serious actors to put you on edge. Those kind of movies don’t come along all that often.

And while I’m on the subject of serious actors, this movie has Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep verbally duking it out for an hour and half.


Two of the best actors out there and, as expected, they’re great.

Good acting is when it really feels like the people you’re watching aren’t even reading from a script; when something manufactured is made to feel genuine. That’s what the actors do in this movie and that’s why they all got nominated for Oscars.

And while they all hit it out of the park, the one person who got legitimately robbed out of an Oscar for this movie is Viola Davis who plays the mother of the boy that the priest takes under his wing. She’s only on-screen for maybe ten minutes, but she steals the show. As an actor, you should be able to cry on command, but, man, Ms. Davis really takes it to a new level. What she does with her role is a great, great example of how subtlety can speak volumes much louder than overpowered emotions.

I like talking about movies like this with other people because I always get a different answer about the same question. Not going to spoil it for you, but you’ll be more than ready to give your two cents on it the next time Doubt comes up in conversation.

It’s got a really strong script, great actors (did I mention that already?), and even if you don’t like it, you can at least be grateful you didn’t go to Catholic High School in the ’60s. All those horror stories you heard about those nuns all your life are apparently very true.

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