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“Doubt” (Blu-ray)
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Miramax Home Video
Genre:
Drama
Release Date:
4/07/09
Special Features:

Commentary track by director/writer John Patrick Shanley; “”The Cast of Doubt”, “Scoring Doubt”, “From Stage to Screen: The Making of Doubt”, “Sisters of Charity”, previews

Review:

We all struggle with the two extremes of existence-faith and doubt. Faith demands unwavering belief without evidence while doubt demands empirical evidence to cure it. Intolerance lives with both waiting for one or the other for direction. It’s 1964 and the United States finds itself caught in the grip of change; integration is occurring, faith is being challenged and change is in the air. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) doesn’t lives in the middle of faith. She’s intolerant of change believing that it allows others to shirk their duties. When it appears that a Catholic priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a man she dislikes because he represents the type of change she is against may have abused an African-American 12 year old boy, Sister Aloysius moves forward with her own investigation using rumor, innuendo and gossip as her weapon of choice. Caught in the middle of this is Sister James (Amy Adams) a young nun who brings the allegation to Sister Aloysius attention. Father Flynn has a simple explanation for the behavior which Sister Aloysius doesn’t believe. ***

This film isn’t about a pedophile nor is it a slam against the Catholic Church; it’s about the two extremes—doubt and faith—that govern us, how we use our beliefs to come to grips with both and how, often, we fail to see the pitfalls of pride. There’s no easy answers in the film and don’t expect this to reveal if he did do it or not. You’ll have to judge like Sister James and Sister Aloysius for yourself based on faith, doubt and the “evidence”. ***

Like Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” “Doubt” examines the toll of faith, doubt, change, intolerance and power in a powerful drama. “Doubt” as its title should imply doesn’t have any easy answers and the mystery isn’t easily solved. Two people watching the film will come away with two very different answers as to whether or not Father Flynn or Sister Aloysius is guilty—the former of being a pedophile the latter of pride. For example (you’ll see my conclusion at the end of the review so skip the “Final Words” section if you don’t want to have the film spoiled for you (if you’ve seen it read it and reply with your own conclusions). ---

Image & Sound:

A crisp, sharp looking presentation “Doubt” captures the look of the seasons as they shift from fall to winter which an apt visual metaphor for the film. Colors are muted throughout but that was the overall intent of the film to begin with. Roger Deacons’ (“No Country for Old Men”)expert photography looks terrific here with film grain and texture intact. *** Audio sound quite good as well coming alive during scenes set in the church itself. Keep in mind though that this is primarily a dialog driven film. ---

Special Features:

Writer-director John Patrick Shanley does a solo commentary track. There are some stretches of silence but they aren’t usually very long and what he does have to say is usually pretty valuable. Shanley reveals that Sister James was inspired by a real nun that taught him and some of the drama is drawn from his own childhood experiences. The nun that Sister James is based on Sister “Peggy” is also interviewed in this section and she’s still spry. She shares how she was surprised when she had one of her friends tell her that Shanley’s character in the play was the inspiration for Sister James. Evidently Shanley had lost track of her and he dedicates the film to her. ***

“From Stage to Screen” gives us a lengthy and detailed description of the genesis of the play and film. Shanley knew he wanted to write a play with the word “Doubt” and no doubt had some general idea as to what he wanted to address in it but beyond that he discovered the play as a lot of playwrights do—by writing it. ***

“The Cast of Doubt” allows the cast to address some of the issues, questions raised by the film. Streep and Hoffman even discuss the different impact of film vs. a stage play and how the drama has to be adjusted accordingly. ***

Howard Shore discusses his scoring of the film in a brief featurette. He gives us an idea about his approach and how he tried to subtly convey the themes in various scenes by using the score to compliment the drama without overpowering it. ***

“Sisters of Charity” features the nuns of the real order that the nuns in the play are supposed to belong to. We get a brief history of the order, it’s purpose and the nuns discuss their take on the film. ***

We also get previews and various promo trailers for other films.

Final Words:

SPOILERS)

Final Words:

A powerful examination of the cost of faith and doubt, “Doubt” continues to have power because as a society we haven’t changed all that much; this plot could have happened at any time in the past 100 years. My conclusion about the film is simple; Father Flynn felt a bond with the boy because he was homosexual himself and although he didn’t abuse the boy he was trying to provide him with console and support because, like Flynn, he is different. Flynn tries to use his faith to guide the boy to accept what he is all the while working to turn him to the path of God hoping that faith will guide the boy through the same doubts that Flynn himself faced before selecting the priesthood. ***

Image-7 out of 10, Sound-7 out of 10, Special Features-7 out of 10

 

 
 
 
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