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Review

Harry has no doubt about DOUBT!

I thought I had this film figured out from the trailers, but thankfully - John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT is far more intricate than a 2 minute trailer. Not as many films are these days, but this one is. From the trailer, I thought this film was about an over-bearing bitch of a nun, played by Meryl Streep, accusing a nice lenient and thoughtful Father, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, of being a child buggerer wrongfully. There is that thread in the film, only it is no where near as cut and dried as that - and every character in the film is so well written, performed and captured that what actually did take place over the running time of the film can be discussed from many points of view. The most stunning performance in the film is by Viola Davis as the mother of the child that it is alleged that Father Brendan Flynn was improper with. Probably the first thing you need to know is that this film isn't set in the here and now, but in the wake of John F Kennedy's assassination. Viola isn't a modern African-American woman, but a black lady of the early sixties - in a very unfriendly world for people of her color. When Meryl Streep's Sister Aloysius reaches out to her to let her know what she suspects... You would think there could be only one reaction - the greatness of Viola's performance is how she could convince the audience of another reaction - that I just was not mentally prepared for. It's more than in the writing of that reaction, Viola steals the entire movie with this scene - and it's such a brief sequence in the film that you hesitate to even suggest it for a supporting actress nomination - except that's exactly what her performance demands. I also loved Amy Adams' Sister James. Amy is really shaping up to be quite a strong actress. Ever since she blew me away with ENCHANTED last year, I've been checking out everything she's done and she never fails to surprise me. Here she plays a nun after the heart of Julie Andrews... only Sister Maria had to just deal with Nazis, not the suspicion of altar boy sex with the Father. Here she goes from innocent to suspicious to relieved to a much more complicated setting. This isn't a Whodunit mystery, so much as a film about rumors and suggestions. Sister Aloysius' clever ruse that she believes seals Father Brendan's fate... well, I don't know if its as cut and dried as all that. I absolutely do not believe Father Brendan had improper contact with the boy in question, but I do believe he had some manner of scandal in his life prior to this station and he did not want it brought out into the open. BUT I COULD BE WRONG. And that's the delight of this movie. There is no rock solid evidence. No teary confessions, only innuendo and supposition. Of course I sympathized with Hoffman's character - as there was a point in my life where I caught a ranch hand on my mother's ranch stealing tools and guns, and had to go to school. By the time I returned from school, the ranch hand told my mother that he saw me molest my sister - and my mother being an alcoholic emotional wreck, had the ranchhands beat me with riding crops till my back bled while being forced into brutal manual labor with a post-hole digger. The next day I told her what had happened, the ranch hand in question had left and she discovered that I was telling the truth (as many of her guns had in fact been stolen and tools taken) and I was proved innocent. BUT that doesn't take away the rather terrifying experience that the mere whisper of wrongdoing did and the harsh memories that I will always carry from that experience. This story will resonate with anyone that has been a victim of rumor or gossip and the performances throughout this drama will capture you.

Readers Talkback
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  • Dec. 28, 2008, 5:03 a.m. CST

    First?

    by morganmorgan

    I doubt it...

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 5:04 a.m. CST

    Q: What kind of meat do priests like to eat?

    by Horace Cox

    A; Nun. Get it? Get it? Hardy har har.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 5:05 a.m. CST

    Damn You Michael Bay

    by MCMLXXVI

    Damn You Michael Bay

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 6:59 a.m. CST

    You were accused of molesting your sister, Harry?

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    Wow. That's some pretty strong stuff (and I hope they caught that evil liar who accused you). Although I can see how your experience relates to your take on the movie, I'm still surprised you would put that in your article what with some of the evil bastards that populate these talkbacks.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 7:01 a.m. CST

    This movie will clean up at the Oscars

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    Mark my words. This is the type of stuff that the Oscar voters always get behind, and the buzz on it has been building for a while.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 8:56 a.m. CST

    Anyone who Talks shit on harry

    by Crow3711

    for laying himself out there like that and telling us a fucked up thing that happened to him is an evil, inconsiderate motherfucker. Anyone who thinks that is funny should probably be molested themselves, just to get some perspective. We should all feel lucky Harry is so open and trusting with us for the most part. Great review.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 8:58 a.m. CST

    Dang, Harry

    by Stan Arthur

    That story of yours would make a great screen play.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 9:27 a.m. CST

    Brokeback Harry

    by mojoman69

    Hey Harry, that ranch hand wasnt Heath Ledger, was it? LOL!!

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 9:39 a.m. CST

    A teacher in primary school accused me of...

    by emeraldboy

    being a liar. I was told to go and stand in the corner of the class room while she continued on the lesson. its an awful thing being accused of something you didnt do.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:06 a.m. CST

    emeraldboy

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    That never happened to you, you big liar.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:10 a.m. CST

    Harry's take on the trailer...

    by eXcommunicated

    ...was much different than mine. Apparently Harry is the kind of guy that takes EVERYTHING at face value. That's okay. At face value the trailer sets up the Nun bitch accuser, the unsure wavering nun apprentice, and the awe shucks good guy who is obviously innocent of any wrongdoing. And that's what Harry got out of the trailer. What I got out of the trailer is that this would be just another Hollywood "twist" movie where the Bitch nun is proved right and the awe shucks good guy really is a buggerer of boys. But obviously the audience only finds this out after the priest wins and the nun is sent away/defeated. That's what *I* got out of the trailer. <p><p> Obviously though based on Harry's description of the movie, neither of us were right.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:13 a.m. CST

    The Screenwriter/Director

    by Edman

    is my Uncle. John Patrick Shanley is my mother's brother. I don't live back east anymore, so I never saw the play, but my folks have a cameo in the movie (which isn't playing where I live yet). They're in the congregation in the opening moments.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:35 a.m. CST

    it is the year 2008...

    by emeraldboy

    It is both sickening and digusting that the irish state employed a known paedofile priest in a state school and more incredibly stood over his employment. Two of the best films to come out of ireland in recent years are Song for a Raggy boy starring Iain glen and Aidan Quinn and the Magadelen sister Starring Geraladine McEwan. McEwan gives the best performance of her career. Watch her and feel the hairs stand up on the back of you neck. The last magdalene laundry closed in 1996. Children born into those prisons were buried in unmarked graves and this day the sisters of Mercy have refused to hand over the list of names.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:38 a.m. CST

    oh it..

    by emeraldboy

    did.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:45 a.m. CST

    This is totally off topic...

    by heks

    ...but speaking of trailers that make you think a movie is something entirely different than what it really is, did anyone have that experience with BLINDNESS? From the teaser trailer (almost trailer length) I got the impression it was a psychological thriller about an unexplained blindness coming over the population but that the blindness wave might have actually originated with the government. It then seemed the government was putting people in quarantine and then doing stuff to them (like experiments of some sort) thinking that nobody could see ... but someone could. Again, that's what I got from the trailer every time I saw it, but that isn't the direction the movie takes at all. Yes there's blindness, yes there's quarantine, but none of the other stuff comes into play. Anyone else have that experience? Here's a link to the teaser, but I could swear that the one I saw had a different reveal of her being able to see ... some close-up wide-eyed, "I can see" uttered in fear. http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/blindness/mediumt.html

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:50 a.m. CST

    Jesus, Harry

    by mefrog

    I'm so sorry that had to happen to you when you were younger. But it's cool that you're able to say it without shame to boost perspective on one of your reviews. Well done.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 11:21 a.m. CST

    Harry

    by Johnny Smith

    Kudos for having the cajones to write something like that in one of your reviews, knowing full well what could be said. I'm quite glad that the responses so far have been largely level-headed. Remember the good stuff people have been saying here so far if people start talking smack. I'm in your corner, dude. Incidentally, the lady and I saw the film last night, and while she was absolutely convinced Father Flynn and Miller had an improper encounter (or several), I wasn't convinced either way, and could see both views.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 11:28 a.m. CST

    Seriously..best of 08

    by technotranceporter

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWBeNUei0SI

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 11:29 a.m. CST

    somebody explain why this is entertainment?

    by j2talk

    just asking...as it doesnt seem like an entertaining film...a blatant Oscar grab sure, but entertainment?

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 11:49 a.m. CST

    no resolution!!

    by ironic_name

    joy!

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 12:27 p.m. CST

    The film is art...

    by Lenny Nero

    ...and film can be both art and entertainment or either. The film (and the play) treat the recent Catholic priest scandals as a jumping off point to dig into the past and uncover the many complications involved within and without the witch-hunting mentality and the complexity of being both right and wrong. Film can be used to explore emotions and the labyrinthine areas of our mind that up our morality and certainty and how it has a negative correlation for everything else. <p>Is that "entertainment"? I would say it is, because it inspires thought and discussion and introspection, and art is designed to be evocative of all things and not just evocative of awe and romance and excitement. <p>But a blatant Oscar grab? No. Then they would have hired some shitty director like Ron Howard to helm it. This is Shanley's tale, and it's a good one, and that should be enough.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 12:37 p.m. CST

    films are supposed to do two things..

    by emeraldboy

    Entertain and learn.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 12:39 p.m. CST

    actually that should be...

    by emeraldboy

    Entertain and educate and make you think. Some films make you strike up a debate after uou see a movie.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 12:46 p.m. CST

    sounds like a BLUE-RAY rental to me....

    by Mike_D

    right harry? *wink*

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 12:49 p.m. CST

    It's Called DOUBT People

    by Crow3711

    Any one complaining about no resolution, entertainment, etc isn't really getting the point, IMO. I've seen the broadway play with Cherry Jones and I'm sure the film is almost identical in terms of content. The whole story is about the idea of having doubt, or certainties, about people, and how it influences events. Streep's character has no doubt. But as the story goes on we start to have our doubts, both in her and father flynn. There's no resolution because just as in life you have to make your own call on what happened. Some times in life you just don't get to know all the facts. Ever. You may leave the theater believing Father Flynn is totally innocent, but in the back of your head, you'll always have some doubt. I really don't want to sound condescending, but that's just simply the point of the story, and it's successful. It couldn't really be more obvious, it's called Doubt.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 1:22 p.m. CST

    Viola Davis

    by Bungion Boy

    I found her performance to be very good in this film, just as I found the woman playing that part very good in the original New York production. But I think this performance, no matter who does it, is destined to be overpraised. People are so floored by the writing and plot development in that scene, that they mistake good writing for great acting. In the original broadway production, I thought the woman playing Sister James gave a far more layered and interesting performance. But she didn't get any attention. She doesn't have that shocking scene in the play. For the record, this has happened for Viola Davis before. She won a Tony for August Wilson's King Hedly II. She was perfectly fine in it but she had this gut wrenching scene that made people go crazy. I don't know. I prefer subtlety.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 1:31 p.m. CST

    Odds and Ends

    by shellfishh

    Two nuns are walking through a park when two thugs pull them into the bushes an start to rape them.<br><Br> One nun looks up and says "Forgive them Lord. They know not what they do."<br><Br>The second nun looks over and says "Mine does."<br><br> As far as misleading trailers, I go with "The Royal Tenenbaums." Looked like a wacky comedy. <br><br> Not so much.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 1:39 p.m. CST

    I Want a Nun to Molest Me

    by Akira Cowabunga

    A nun that looks like Salma Hayek.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 1:43 p.m. CST

    I was accused of rape once

    by IAmMrMonkey!

    I had to get into a line-up and was later released when the billion childhoods watching from behind the one-way mirror informed the police that I definitely wasn't George Lucas.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 2:22 p.m. CST

    tony blair and george bush had no doubt...

    by emeraldboy

    when invading iraq. no doubt at all. They both believed god was on thier side. Blair did not do the god thing(but converted to catholiscism). Bush was very open about god even admitting to talking to about a palestinian state. good riddance to george W Bush and his incompetent god fearing clique.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 2:49 p.m. CST

    I wasn't too blown away by this movie.

    by a goonie

    But I really wanted to be. As the movie began, I was completely on board. I loved the chilly look of the movie, the archaic architecture, the simplicity of the movie's surroundings. And at first, I was genuinely creeped out by Meryl Streep's Nurse Ratchett, er, I mean, Sister Aloysius. And I enjoyed Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance right off the bat. But as the movie progressed, I found my interest waning and my emotional engagement drying up. In the end, I thought the movie felt more like a series of ruminations on the old and new Catholic Church than a fully realized story. Streep is very good in the beginning, but her performance devolves into caricature by the end. She is completely one-dimensional until the ending and I didn't buy her sudden explosion of conscience.<br><br>Also, Shanley directs his own play as if he's afraid to think outside of the box. There are some good moments (such as the comparison of the priest and nun dinners), but much of the movie is shot in such an obvious manner (hey look! It's another canted angle!) that I felt myself being pulled out of the movie. And the weather symbolism is completely overdone.<br><br>All in all, it's a watchable movie, but it didn't leave much of an impression on me. I'm sure the movie will clean up with Oscar noms, but there are far more deserving movies so far this year.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 4:15 p.m. CST

    John Patrick Shanley...

    by Little Beavis

    ...will never top his 1990 masterpiece Joe Versus the Volcano. That is all.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 4:17 p.m. CST

    oh, and Harry...

    by Little Beavis

    ...sorry that kind of shit happened to you... awesome that you sound like a great uncle to your nephew despite that childhood fuckstorm you went thru!

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Good flick...what's with the fingernails?

    by Alfie Boy

    What's with that reference?

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10 p.m. CST

    Didn't your sister say anything?

    by kungfuhustler84

    I hope you found that guy again at some point. What scum.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 10:41 p.m. CST

    Not to be an ass, but I find Harry's story hard to believe

    by SexyBeast

    Seems to be alot of gaps in that story. If I was a kid, and some ranch hand accused me of molestation, first I'd deny it straight away. Was the sister a baby? was she too young to vouch for Harry? what about the guns, why not just say let's go count em. Plus I can't imagine Harry would get beat based on one accusation.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 11:16 p.m. CST

    Sexy Beast

    by HEADGEEK

    Actually - the story is in my book. My sister was 3 at the time. And it happened almost exactly as stated - the longer version involves the police trying to arrest the man. I never reported the abuse issue at the time, because it was a one time thing, and ultimately I was a couple years out from going to college and just wanted to "do my time" till I got back to Austin. You can read the entire story in my book, AINT IT COOL.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 11:18 p.m. CST

    It was a good movie

    by Dr. Chim Richalds

    It's not usually the type of movie that I see - one in which I go in with little investment in the story and simply want to watch the ACTING on display. Nobody disappointed in that regard, and Streep's character was particularly compelling as someone whose motives and actual beliefs were never entirely clear. That said, I would be surprised if I ever watched it again and I'm sure that it isn't everyone's cup of tea. It's just one of those movies that you can appreciate for the performances but that doesn't necessarily stay with you after you leave the theater.

  • Dec. 28, 2008, 11:18 p.m. CST

    Sexy Beast

    by HEADGEEK

    by the time I returned from school, my mother was already blindass drunk - furious by the accusation and my 'punishment' had been decided. There was no pleading the case, the judge was passed out blind drunk.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 12:17 a.m. CST

    Wait, wait, wait....

    by themasterofnonsense

    You molested your sister AND your mom's an abusive alcoholic?? No wonder your so fucked up!

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 12:57 a.m. CST

    If this film is anything like the play...

    by neverhed

    ...then Harry's first sentence proves his idiocy. The story is awful, the dialogue is meant for scenery gluttons, and the plot loses its sense of forward momentum a third of the way through. I didn't read more than the first paragraph of this review because, at this point, Harry would love DUMPSTER BABY if it was re-released.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 3:10 a.m. CST

    Doubt: The Harry Knowles Story

    by criticalbliss

    (stay tuned for the riding crop. Yeehah!)

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 3:11 a.m. CST

    Harry, how could you do that to your sister?

    by criticalbliss

    I didn't know you were catholic.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 6:01 a.m. CST

    Harry, you do realize it's 2008, yes?

    by Photoman

    What, were you born back in the 1890's livin on a ranch with your Ma and Pa and a couple a ranch hands? Is this when you ran out of the house yelling "SHAAAAANE"? You should have held back on the "riding crops till my back bled" part because when you're making something up, at least make it a little believable. Never go full back bleeding.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Never mind the assholes, Harry

    by Zeegloo

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 4:23 p.m. CST

    I thought it was good but...

    by movieman742

    The last scene just didn't fit in with the entire movie. When she says she has doubts it completely goes against herself for the entire movie. It would have been much better if there was some sort of expression without her having to say anything. I mean it's Streep for god sakes. I think she can do a decent expression without needing to say things. Hoffman was good with his quiet intesity that he always brings. The last confrontation with him and streep was a great acting scene. I still prefer him in Before The Devil Knows You're Dead though.

  • Dec. 29, 2008, 6:49 p.m. CST

    ain't that cool

    by a rolling stone

    Ranch-hand beatings and stolen guns? THAT is a true Texas story, my friend. Makes me proud to live here. It almost came off as a gunslinger flashback. Roland in Mejis, or maybe when he ratted Hax out to his father in Gilead.

  • Dec. 30, 2008, 8:43 a.m. CST

    Speaking of Sexy beast....

    by emeraldboy

    Ray winstone is putting the finishing touches to his new film called 44 inch Chest. Its a gangster movie and wait untill you see whos in it. John Hurt, Ian McShane, Tom Wilkinson, Joanne Whalley Stephen Dillane and the mighty Steven berkoff.

  • Dec. 30, 2008, 8:44 a.m. CST

    Winstone says its much tougher

    by emeraldboy

    then sexy beast.

  • Dec. 30, 2008, 9:01 a.m. CST

    Nobody else...

    by GetEveryone

    really want to know what serious something it was Snarky was accused of? Also, it does look like oscar bait; dull bait, no-less.

  • Dec. 30, 2008, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Why don't they ask the kid?

    by WickedJacob

    The kid has exactly zero lines.

  • Dec. 31, 2008, 8:42 a.m. CST

    WTF

    by redfist

    the ranch hands beat him with riding crops and made him work with a post hole digger...sounds like a sick fantasy to me

  • Jan. 2, 2009, 7:49 p.m. CST

    Great play, looking forward to seeing the film

    by Gungan Slayer

    I've both read and watched the performance of the play that this film is based on, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm glad to see that the film adaptation has received good reviews and I plan on watching it sometime soon.

  • Jan. 8, 2009, 9:43 a.m. CST

    I thought, like a lot of irish people..

    by emeraldboy

    the Irish catholic church would of learned its lesson over the 2005 fearns report. As the cloynes scandal of 2008 rumbles on. its seems that they have not. Bishop John Magee, the bishop of Cloyne appointed by the previous pope, is not going anywhere. according to him only the new pope has the authority to fire him. There is huge pressure for john MAgee to go. but he is brazening it out. here is the link to the rte page on such matters: http://www.rte.ie/news/2009/0107/abuse.html

  • Jan. 11, 2009, 2:44 p.m. CST

    Good

    by christpunchers2007

    but nothing amazing. Very "small" movie with a few connecting pieces between two showdowns. Nice performances but I couldn't understand why they never bothered to question the little kid involved. If they suspected Hoffman to have done something then why didn't they ask the kid anything at all? The ending was a exactly what I expected, it was obviously from the beginning that this simple movie would not have a definite conclusion (no one wants to see either actors as the one that's right or wrong, only in between). I felt that it was extremely cheesy for Streep to have doubts. It did not fit her character at all.

  • Jan. 24, 2009, 11:42 p.m. CST

    Was the black kid gay?

    by moviemo

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned this. It was so obvious to me that he was gay the way the mother was talking about his "nature" and if he brought something out in the priest, it was the boy's fault, and that the boy's dad didn't even like him...and of course, let us not forget the boy being self-conscious enough to ask his friend if he thought he looked fat...I didn't expect that at all, and I thought this movie did a great job of taking a seemingly obvious situation and showing us that reality is more oft than not more complicated.

  • Jan. 25, 2009, 7:04 p.m. CST

    "From the trailer, I thought this film was about an over-bearing

    by henrydalton

    "From the trailer, I thought this film was about an over-bearing bitch of a nun, played by Meryl Streep, accusing a nice lenient and thoughtful Father, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, of being a child buggerer wrongfully." That's interesting. I saw the trailer (presumably the same one) before Slumdog Millionaire tonight and got the opposite impression - that Hoffman's character was guilty and Streep's character was the 'good' one bringing the incident out.

  • Jan. 25, 2009, 8:32 p.m. CST

    My theory... (SPOILERS)

    by Redmantle

    SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS. There, anyone who hasn't seen this movie is thoroughly warned. I like this movie because we don't know exactly what happened in the priest's past or with the priest and the kid and it encourages us to come up with what might have happened. My take: Father Flynn was gay, but not a pedophile. He talked to the kid, about him (the kid) being gay, and how God made him who he was, and was trying to help him deal with that. The scandal back at his old church was not about him being inappropriate with a kid, but was about him having an affair with an adult male member of his parish. Thoughts?

  • Jan. 27, 2009, 2:35 p.m. CST

    Redmantle

    by moviemo

    Sound speculation, but that's all we can do is speculate, since the storytellers didn't include a difinitive explanation about his backstory. This movie is definitely one to provoke thought, and one of the few out that challenge the viewer to re-examine their assumptions. I'd give it a 7/10.

  • Feb. 4, 2009, 3:56 p.m. CST

    Defamer fucking sucks.

    by eggart

    Anyone from there can go to hell.

  • Feb. 5, 2009, 2:56 p.m. CST

    Pissing in the wind are we

    by orcus

    Orcus sees all

  • Feb. 15, 2009, 12:31 p.m. CST

    This movie is just about...

    by emeraldboy

    to open. here in the UK/ireland. Itll bomb becuase In ireland we all too much about these types of things. Since the 1990s Irish media has been saturated with Church corruption. What stop all that blather. was a story which turned out to be completely false from someone who destroyed the life of a priest by claiming that this priest abused him. IT all ended up in court when this guy who said that the priest abused him admitted he was a pathological liar. when a priest abuses a young girl and the priest works for the state. you would think that the state would side with victim. but no. Louise O keefe has had her life destroyed. after the state last year threw out her case. and the state will seek its costs. and bishop john magee from cloyne is still in his job. makes me sick.

  • Feb. 18, 2009, 8:18 a.m. CST

    Whoa, more life!

    by orcus