When you watch this film you will not be surprised to find out that it's first incarnation was as a play. A Pulitzer Prize winning play, thank you very much. It's focus is on dialogue and contains several meaty roles that actors love to sink their teeth into. And sink their teeth into it do the four main actors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis (Nights in Rodanthe, Disturbia). We shouldn't be surprised if when the Oscar nominations come out that all four of these talented actors are nominated.
While the acting in the film is marvellous that does not make it a film for everyone. The film is very much like a piece of theatre. Like previously stated "Doubt" relies almost solely on dialogue. There are long, wordy sections with no action or movement to speak of save some windy, rainy weather. At many points during the film it is a battle of wits or cat vs. mouse type scenario between the Streep and Hoffman characters. While many of us will revel in the acting talent demonstrated by the two others will be turned off by the dour and slow nature of the film.
I have to admit that I'm a late comer to the Meryl Streep is an Acting Goddess bandwagon, but I am now firmly on it. The woman can do anything. Comedy, a musical, drama or a frightening character in Prada or a habit – they are all within her huge wheelhouse. In this film she adds another accent to her already impressive list. The innercity New York accent Streep uses is as authentic as everything else she does onscreen in this film. Philip Seymour Hoffman takes on the alternately attractive and then difficult role of playing a priest accused of pedophilia. He is one of the few male actors today who can go toe-to-toe with la Streep and emerge unscathed. Their scenes together are riveting. Amy Adams shows she has plenty of range in her role as the innocent nun with a large heart. The real revelation is Viola Davis (doing her best Judi Dench with being onscreen for a few minutes but leaving a mark that should bring her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination) doing a great job as the emotionally torn mother.
Besides the strong acting what I loved about the film is how nothing was obvious or as it seemed in the film. Who are we behind? Who do we believe? What is the truth? Even members of the audience are filled with 'doubt' while watching screenwriter/director John Patrick Shanley's (Joe Versus the Volcano) film. He purposely and beautifully keeps everything ambiguous and layered. No one is completely bad or completely righteous in this film. Even those of the cloth are shown as human – full of faults and doubts. An excellently acted and executed film, which despite it dourness and difficult subject was a wonder to watch.
Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep – Kramer vs. Kramer, The Devil Wears Prada) is the much-feared principal of a Bronx Catholic school. If her students and even the other nuns fear Sister Aloysius it is not for nothing. She rules the school with a steely glare and an iron fist. No slight goes unpunished and even ball point pens are seen as the Devil's instruments.
She butts heads with the progressive priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson's War, The Savages) who's sermons on tolerance and doubt get the Sister's ire up. She is given a reason to go after Father Flynn after Sister James (Amy Adams – Enchanted, Junebug) tells her that the only black student (Joseph Foster II – ) of the school comes back to class acting 'weird' and smelling of alcohol after spending time alone with Father Flynn. The hunt is on and Sister Aloysius is like a shark who has smelt blood. She will not let the issue drop until she gets her man…or Father.