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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.02%
Worth A Look59.65%
Average: 29.82%
Pretty Bad: 1.75%
Total Crap: 1.75%

6 reviews, 21 user ratings

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by William Goss

"Old Habits Are Hard to Break"
4 stars

It’s 1964 in the Bronx, and Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) has concerns.

She’s concerned that ball-point pens and cough drops are infiltrating the Catholic school that she presides over (to her, the latter are simply candy by another name). She’s concerned that Donald Miller (relative newcomer Joseph Foster II), the school’s only black student, will be singled out, though she gives no thought to the sexism inherent to the church’s own hierarchy. She’s concerned that Donald Miller has indeed been singled out by no less than the kindly Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and she’s concerned when a young nun (Amy Adams) makes mention of a suspect meeting between the two in the rectory. For her, that last part’s enough, or rather too much, and so Sister Aloysius sets out to confront the priest and cast him out, playing cat to his mouse and leaving the burden of proof for anyone else to bear.

The result is a taut morality play and a fine acting showcase, adapted from the stage by writer/director John Patrick Shanley, who strains to escape the trappings of chatty confrontations with titled camera angles and metaphors made literal that often prove more distracting than not. Still, they’re not enough to take one out of the proceedings, as matters of authority, faith, change, responsibility, accountability, the line between truth and certainty and the divide between righteousness and self-righteousness all share the spotlight as the stars volley back and forth in their judgments.

Streep’s sister claims that shouting only won fights in ancient Sparta, although that doesn’t stop her from railing against Hoffman’s priest with all manner of awards-baiting fury. Hoffman, though, comparatively keeps his cool, though his little tics and line readings are just enough to sway the viewer’s own beliefs. (The film relishes this ambiguity proudly; after all, it’s not so much a matter of whether or not he did it as it is of whether or not she’s right in her crusade.) Adams can merely try to hold her own against two titans in terms of characterization and acting ability, though she sells meek naïvete as well as anyone could. In a quiet, critical role, Foster helps Hoffman keep the scales of suspicion ever tilting, and as Miller’s mother, Viola Davis packs quite the punch in little more than a single scene as she tries and tries to convince Sister Aloysius of the significant personal stakes that her battle for moral superiority may not have taken into consideration.

What exactly is it, then, that keeps 'Doubt' from achieving a state of film greatness? God only knows.

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originally posted: 12/28/08 15:21:42
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User Comments

1/28/20 David Hollingsworth A well-acted and moving film. 5 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell gripping thought provoking 4 stars
5/29/13 Ebrahim Kazemipour The mivie casts doubt on our presuppositions of people.I love it very much. 4 stars
8/24/10 RLan great story, even better acting by all invovled. 4 stars
12/22/09 SirGent A new fave & solid from top to bottom, I love Streep! 5 stars
8/24/09 MP Bartley Stagey, but keeps you guessing till, and past, the end. Hoffman and Adams the standouts. 4 stars
6/23/09 Anonymous. I loved this movie. 5 stars
6/17/09 Simon Thoughtful but theatery. Streep still overrated in caricatured character, dreadful ending 3 stars
6/08/09 Danny Very good performances in a rather boring movie. 3 stars
5/24/09 Deck Sophie & Aloysius are the same actress - Streep Rules 4 stars
5/09/09 Charles R.L. Power Not believable, and if it were, its sympathies are in the wrong place. 2 stars
4/17/09 matt meryl streep should have been shot in the face at the end. otherwise a great film! 4 stars
4/17/09 Total Crap The movie is an exercise in brilliant acting. But, that doesn't say much for the plot. 3 stars
2/06/09 Keoni Incredibly believable acting by Streep. I was taught by the Sisters of Charity. Great end. 5 stars
2/04/09 Veritas Ham-fisted, tedious, and utterly false. And Streep's performance is RIDICULOUSLY BAD!!!! 1 stars
1/26/09 mr.mike Only complaint is I couldn't shake the feeling that Hoffman was miscast. 4 stars
1/09/09 meg It was a good ending, he was guilty yet promoted she expresses doubt re God faith justice 4 stars
1/03/09 jcjs33 decent, fine acting, dragged, ok theme, nothing new 4 stars
12/31/08 ravenmad great acting, but wished there was more to it, more drama, more something... 3 stars
12/30/08 orpy Good acting by all; bummer of an ending... 3 stars
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  12-Dec-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 07-Apr-2009


  DVD: 07-Apr-2009

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