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Genre: , ,

Cast: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Joseph Foster

Director: John Patrick Shanley

Rated: PG-13

Review By:
Ryan Hamelin

New York University - Tisch '12

"Procrastinate now, don't put it off." -Ellen Degeneres

Release Date: April 7th, 2009
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Overall Grade: A-


Review By: Ryan Hamelin

Click Here to Read the Theatrical Review!


Movie Grade: A-

DVD Features Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

Doubt is one of those films that commands attention, whether in the acting world with its stellar cast, the directing world with its fidelity to its source material, or the writing world with its origins as a Broadway show. It is a film that pulls no punches, often relishing in its lack of frills and editing devices. It is shot deceptively plain, though it does make incredible use of the "canted angle" or a frame which is tilted at a slant. Without anything going on in the shot to make the audience uncomfortable, it achieves a level of discomfort that only helps the look of the film.

The original play opened to rave reviews on the Broadway stage. The piece itself won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. The playwright directed the film and adapted his theater piece himself. On a creative level, this movie could not have been any closer to what its author intended. It shows in the final product, a film where the entire fiber of the story is wound into each and every frame. The love and care that infuse this production exist on an amazingly visceral level. You feel it while watching the film, you feel it deep within yourself, and everything that happens on the screen affects you in a very special way. Even so, you will not experience the film the same way as others around you, and, like the play, each and every viewer will come away with a completely different understanding of what the movie means, what it is saying, and what the truth of the situation actually was. That is a sign of a brilliantly ambiguous script and a cast evenly matched enough to leave the battle undecided.

Speaking of the cast, there's a reason this movie can do so much in such a compact runtime (a little over an hour and a half). Meryl Streep deserved yet another Academy Award this year, though she does have quite the collection already. She is absolutely terrifying in this role. As principal of a catholic elementary school in the Bronx, she is a taskmaster and authority witch on a level that would frighten a grown man quite easily. This makes Phillip Seymour Hoffman's strength in the face of her tempest even more courageous. Hoffman has had a handful of roles which have shown the kind of range he is capable of. I would put this performance up among his best, with Capote and Synecdoche, New York. His Father Flynn is engaging, compassionate, and totally prepared to go toe-to-toe with Meryl Streep's icy tyranny. The results are explosive, and their exchanges are easily the highlight of the film. The pair of them do not need even the quietest bars of musical accompaniment to highlight their performances. Their

scenes play out in a deafening silence that harkens back to the story's roots as a stage production. The transition is seamless and powerful.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Amy Adams' work in the film. She satisfies the median position, the counterbalance between the warring forces. Each player influences her to a certain degree, and she is a genuine delight in the role of the naive young nun, the person who believes the good in everyone and does not seek out the darkness behind the scenes. In a lot of ways I think her performance has gone underappreciated, because it is the subtlest in the ensemble. She doesn't get to shout or rage, she doesn't get to have a truly emotional breakdown. She must display her heart without losing her poise, and she is so accomplished at this type of work that you can see a similar demeanor throughout her young filmography.

Doubt is a movie that has to be seen, if only for the performances and the writing upon which they are founded. There are many worse ways to spend an hour and a half, and I would contend that this is one of the best ways to do so in the past year. Of all the Oscar films this fall, Doubt deserved every piece of recognition it got and far more than it came away with in the end.

The Extras:

When a director is also the writer of a film, the odds are that any Deleted Scenes will be minimal at best. There aren't any here, and I doubt (terrible pun) there were any to begin with. Instead there are a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes that run the gambit from the play to the score and manage to touch on everything you'd want to know about the film without going all that in-depth. It's nice to see a decent amount of material on a single-disc, and with the special features the total content runs close to 2 hours if you count the film. It's a streamlined package, and there isn't really anything else you'd expect them to add for this kind of production. It's not going to break any new ground, but is quite satisfactory.

Movie Grade: A-

DVD Features Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

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