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Capone has few doubts about DOUBT!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here. As a pure acting exercise, the latest work from writer-director John Patrick Shanley (based on his play) is near flawless. Watching the likes of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams bob and weave around each other is this tale of suspicion, paranoia, guilt and a good old-fashioned witch-hunt is a damn-near flawless experience. But DOUBT as a film that you might be tempted to pay money to see has problems, primarily with Shanley's script, which seems rushed and a little untrue to itself as things begin wrapping themselves up at the climax and ill-fitting epilogue. DOUBT is a movie that I've been back and forth on since seeing it, and I probably need to see it again to solidify my feelings on it. But the fact remains that a work like this coming out at this time of year is custom-made to get Oscar nominations; it probably will get a couple. But the sad fact remains that films about priests getting accused of molesting young boys is not nearly as shocking as it once was, so a film that features that subject needs to add something new to the mix to justify it getting made in the first place. The newness of DOUBT, I suppose, is the source of the accusation--in this case the first whisper of wrong doing on the part of Father Flynn (Hoffman) comes from one of his greatest supporters, a young nun named Sister James (Adams). And the film's best scenes come when the story's grand inquisitor, Sister Aloysius (Streep), is relentlessly grilling anyone who steps in her chamber. Set in the Bronx at St. Nicholas Catholic School circa 1964, what is most interesting about DOUBT is that the victim and the strange behavior he exhibits that sends Sister James to the boss nun are almost never seen, and maybe that's part of what makes this story so intriguing — this isn't a film about the alleged victim; it's about the accuser and the accused. Shanley (who won an Oscar 20 years ago for writing MOONSTRUCK, and whose only other directing gig was 1990's JOE VS. THE VOLCANO) offers up many nice details about the setting, the time, and the other nuns and students at the school, but really the entire production is built around a few confrontations between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn. She attacks with a bit of information or a baseless allegation; he counters with a perfectly reasonable explanation or outright denial. She lies or stretches the truth about evidence she has; he calls her bluff or flinches. It's an interesting battle of wills, but it's also a whole lot of huff and puff without a substantial payoff or resolution. I don't need all of my movies to end definitively with all questions answered and all loose ends tied into cute little red bows. But I need something--anything--I can sink my teeth into. The final battle royale between the nun with the hearty New York accent and the relatively young priest who has been transferred to three different parishes in the last five years doesn't feel genuine. One of them gives up far too easily, and I didn't buy that for a second. I liked the way Father Flynn turns the tables on Sister Aloysius to uncover why she is such a taskmaster and so afraid of the desperate need to modernize the church in light of the changing social consciousness of the times. In the end, the power of the acting trumps the shortcomings of the screenplay. And while most of the attention come awards season will focus on Streep and Hoffman, Amy Adams puts in another stellar performance as the jumpy mouse Sister James. She's a being of raw skittish energy who regrets voicing her suspicions the minute she does so. The film is as much about her getting caught between these two black holes, each trying to pull her onto their side of this spiritual and moral war. She's our entry point into this flawed but no less explosive tale, and in the hands of a lesser actress, the material would have been fumbled. A few pointed reservations aside, I'm still recommending DOUBT for the piercing performances and the still-relevant (if not entirely untapped) subject matter. I'll give the film points for showing us this material from a unique perspective and label it a minor, albeit flawed, triumph. -- Capone

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:34 a.m. CST

    I doubt I'm First

    by The Dum Guy

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:34 a.m. CST

    I love Amy Adams

    by White Goodman

    She makes me feel funny down there.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:34 a.m. CST

    You were wrong Dum Guy

    by White Goodman

    I was right.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:37 a.m. CST

    Or, was I pun-ishing anyone else who thought othewise?

    by The Dum Guy

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:39 a.m. CST

    Amy Adams makes me

    by Thrillho77

    fucking jizz in my pants. I don't mean to be vulgar, but that's the way it is.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:56 a.m. CST

    Amy Adams was just on the View. She's a good looking chick.

    by Orbots Commander

    Don't ask me why I was watching the View on a Friday afternoon; I'm on vacation from work this whole week and I usually have CNBC (my tech stocks have pretty much tanked) or ESPN on in the background around my place, but for some reason it was on Ch. 7 ABC (in NY). Amy Adams and Meryl Streep were on a couch with some old broads from the View. I didn't catch the whole segment, but it did show a close-up of Adams' diamond engagement ring. Don't know who the lucky bastard is.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:56 a.m. CST

    that's sort-of a non-spoiler spoiler, isn't it?

    by Magic Rat

    you're telling us there's no resolution to the film -- which is just like telling us what happens at the end of the movie. <br> <br> Thanks for ruining it.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:06 p.m. CST


    by JabbaTheMutt

    I too want to know what you were doing watching The View...being that you are OBVIOUSLY a strong HETEROSEXUAL male who likes WOMEN at every long as they also like Project Runway. It's OK. Lots of guys watch it...when they aren't having carnal relations with their smokin' hot girlfriend. You don't have to convince us how you love stocks and sports and other manly ventures...some of us understand...

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:15 p.m. CST

    Enough to nominate this over TDK?

    by DisneyFanatic

    Ehhh... if it's anything anti-Catholic, pro-Gay, anti-Conservative, you can bet your ass that it will get nominated for something in Hollywood.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:16 p.m. CST

    This is how sick I am...

    by Thrillho77

    If I could be kept in a cage in Amy Adams' bedroom, but never to know the touch of her porcelain skin, I would probably take that as a pretty good turn of events.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:21 p.m. CST

    Most adapted plays FEEL like plays

    by ShiftyEyedDog2

    often I can watch a film I had no idea was an adaptation and say "I bet this was a play", and sure enough...<br><br>The probem with movies based on plays is exactly what he said, they feature great acting and character interaction, but other aspects are rarely up to that same level.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:24 p.m. CST

    Jabba, you're sorta right...

    by Orbots Commander

    ...the GF stayed around which is how the TV stayed on ABC for the View. And I have no more stomach to watch any shares I own, decline further than they already have. These days CNBC makes me more queasy.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:28 p.m. CST


    by Reckoner

    has done some great work the last several years... Capote, The Savages, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Charlie Wilson's War. He is great to watch

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:36 p.m. CST


    by malcolm_mccallum

    Unseen, the premise seems to be that the questioning and vague answers without ever getting any definitive resolution is set up to be a metaphor for belief in God. It seems to be a movie/play about faith and conviction and doubt and that absolutely requires that no answer be provided at the end. Again, I've not seen it so the weak unresolved ending could just be a weak and unresolved ending.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:43 p.m. CST

    Will Joe Vs. The Valcano ever get the recognition it deserves

    by Lovecraftfan

    Great unfairly maligned film thats almost been forgotten

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 12:58 p.m. CST

    Brain cloud!

    by BadMrWonka

    I...knew it!

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 1:06 p.m. CST

    Hugh Jackman is hosting the Oscars, btw

    by Magic Rat

    just broke on the news.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Hugh Jackman?

    by Thrillho77

    That's an interesting choice. A contemporary legit actor guy. Oh, and sexiest man o' the year probably had a little to do with it.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 1:10 p.m. CST

    Jackman? Well, now there's NO reason to watch.

    by Orbots Commander

    With Jackman, the Academy Awards are saying, "We don't want straight, regular guys to watch. Please go away." If Jon Stewart hosted again, I would have tuned in for his opening. Now? No reason. It'll be a snooze-fest.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 1:29 p.m. CST

    Um, Hugh Jackman isn't hosting the Oscars...

    by IndoorPlumbing

    Wolverine is hosting the Oscars.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 2:10 p.m. CST


    by Gilkuliehe

    I like Jon Stewart's hosting. I wanted Obama jokes goddamnit.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 2:28 p.m. CST

    This Film Looks Awful.

    by neverhed

    The play is horribly weak and pretentious, both in written form and in performance. I don't care what awards it has won. This is an Oscar-grubbing pile of garbage if ever there was one. There is nothing unpredictable or remotely interesting about the trailers. It views like a parody straight out of TROPIC THUNDER. Meryl Streep, for everything great she has done, hasn't made a good film in about a decade. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is completely hit-or-miss, but he could be good in this.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 3:01 p.m. CST

    Jackman is an EXCELLENT choice for Oscars

    by ShiftyEyedDog2

    Outside of his impressive acting, Jackman is also a GREAT personality and a fun, likable guy. He hosted 3 Tony Awards to great acclaim. Just because he won’t be doing a stand-up routine doesn’t mean he won’t have fun with it. I for one am very excited about this choice. When I heard yesterday they were going with a non-comedian, I was worried it would be dreary and boring. But now I have high hopes for it. <br><br>...and as for the "just broke on the news", this has been known since early this morning. Welcome to the party.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 3:27 p.m. CST


    by PantherMatt

    Boy are you wrong about "Doubt." It is both a fantastic script, and the version I saw, eith the original Broadway cast of Bryan F O'Byrne and Cherry Jones performed the HELL of it. Now, Oscar Winner "Crash" was both horribly weak and pretentious in both script and performance, but not "Doubt". And, while I haven't seen the movie yet, the indecisive ending (at least in theplay) is supposed to leave you with... oh, what's the word?... Oh yeah: DOUBT.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 3:49 p.m. CST

    Saw this on Broadway

    by AdrianVeidt

    And was well-written and acted as it was, I seriously about fell asleep. Capone is right about this being slightly dated. I saw it three years ago and it felt dated, so I can only imagine what it feels like now.<p>However, given the content and the cast, I'd say that the actors chosen for this are perfect. Jena Malone was play the Amy Adams part on Broadway, and it just annoyed me. She's a babe, but Amy Adams is babier, and a better actress.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 3:50 p.m. CST

    I just ate a grape and I

    by AdrianVeidt

    JIZZED IN MY PANTS.<p><p><p> Oh wait, that was Amy Adams I thought of.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 5:10 p.m. CST


    by critch

    Oh good, another independent borefest begging for an Oscar. Put this one on the shelf next to Atonement and Juno as movies that were popular for a month and then never thought about again.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 5:11 p.m. CST

    Hugh Jackman hosts the Oscars shirtless

    by Drath

    They figured it would at least get most of the straight actresses and gay actors to show up in case of a strike. Ian McKellen has already agreed to arm wrestle him for the intro.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 5:36 p.m. CST


    by neverhed

    I also saw what I believe was the original cast. I know for a fact that Cherry Jones was still with the show. In any event, the only doubt the play left me with was whether I had wasted an entire evening of my life, or if I'd somehow get over it. The acting wasn't unbearable, but the story and script were. There's a difference between leaving the audience with unanswered questions and simply leaving a story unfinished. It's an hour and a half of typical, mediocre melodrama with no resolution or attempt at a real message. There is nothing spectacular, or even remotely compelling enough, about the dialogue to warrant such a weak ending. And I'm someone who usually enjoys ambiguous endings.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 5:53 p.m. CST

    The Meryl Streep overacting extravaganza

    by disfigurehead

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 6:07 p.m. CST

    No mention of Viola Davis?

    by Puñeta

    Since she has been given as much praise as Streep for her performance in the film im suprised Capone didnt even mention her once.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 6:32 p.m. CST

    Mmmmm, Amy Adams

    by The Bicycle Sharer

    And it's not funny that she makes me feel down there. It's more like, uh, well, I guess "turgid," that's the word for it...<p>And in a nurse's habit? Well, forget about it.

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 10:26 p.m. CST

    Meryl Streep's "Versatility"!

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    Smell like Streep...for cheap!

  • Dec. 12, 2008, 11:52 p.m. CST

    So did he fuck that kid or what?

    by NapoleonDynamite

    I at least want to know that the movie answers that question. If not, then the whol thing's a jerk off.

  • Dec. 13, 2008, 2:16 a.m. CST

    This sounds too much like Sister Act 2

    by Series7

    Anyone else wish that Adam Sandler and PSH had fucking thrown down in Punch Drunk Love? Anyone else amazed that an Oscar winner got noticed by co-starring opposite Marky Mark and Opera Man? DAMNIT!!! I was going to say why hasn't time been soo lucky to BLANK STAR but I can't find another actor thats been in an Funky Bunch and a Adam Sandler stupid guy skit movie. <P> Any takers?

  • Dec. 13, 2008, 2:30 p.m. CST

    So this is what Hollywood thinks I want for christmas

    by the_frog

    Idiot aliens trying to stop global warming, catholic priests molesting kids, and biopics about the evil Nixon. Those folks who have been screaming about Hollywood's leftist agenda may have a good point, but Hollywood is going to pay for it when the flyover states get sick of forking over dough for this crap.

  • Dec. 13, 2008, 2:31 p.m. CST

    Oh yeah, and I forgot the Sean Penn

    by the_frog

    gay movie. That's really what we were hoping to go see this weekend. Jeez.

  • Dec. 13, 2008, 9:53 p.m. CST

    What, you'd rather be watching a "fun" movie like Four Christmas

    by Nasty In The Pasty

  • Dec. 13, 2008, 9:54 p.m. CST


    by Nasty In The Pasty