Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Sexual abuse of children by priests is terrible.  False accuasations of sexual abuse of children are terrible.  Deciding which is more terrible, or which is the truth in a particular case, is the subject of this movie.  Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the priest of a New York City parish.  Meryl Streep plays the nun who serves as principal of the parish school.  Both of these seasoned actors' performances are terrific, as is that of Amy Adams, the young nun who teaches at the school.

Doubt captures an interesting moment in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.  JFK was assassinated the year before, and Vatican 2 has initiated huge changes in the Church.  Father Flynn (Hoffman) is progressive, embracing the more open Church, while Sister Aloysius (Streep) is vehemently traditional, ruling the school with harsh discipline and fear.  She dislikes Father Flynn and watches him like a hawk.  When she begins to have a reason, even a slight one, to believe that he sexually abused a student, she pounces and will not relent until he is gone, no matter what the truth of the matter is.

The play on which Doubt is based won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1995.  The pace of the movie reflects its roots on the stage, as do the intense, extended scenes of dialogue.  Part of the appeal of the script is the ambiguity; the viewer never really knows whether or not Father Flynn is guilty.  This was an intriguing, enjoyable film.

Bottom line, 3 stars.

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