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January 1, 2009
Review - " Doubt " (in Theaters) - By Roland Hansen
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Phillip Seymore Hoffman - Doubt
"Doubt" (Goodspeed productions)
Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley
Starring: Meryl Streep (Sister Aloysius Beauvier), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Father
Brendan Flynn), Amy Adams (Sister James), Viola Davis (Mrs. Miller)

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a priest who may, or may not,  be a pedophile in this
deliberately ambiguous drama. The story is set in 1964 at a Bronx catholic school.
Authoritarian principal Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) comes to suspect a popular
priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), of impropriety with 12-year-old
Donald, the school's first black student, a sensitive boy whom Father Flynn has
treated compassionately.

Though sexual misconduct is at the heart of the story, it is the balance between
doubt and premature certainty that forms the principal thematic subtext. What follows
is a cat-and-mouse game between cunning old nun and free-spirit priest, a war for
the mortal soul of the younger nun and the future of this church and school. To
Sister Aloysius, it's about standards, morality and tradition. "Every easy choice today
will have its consequences tomorrow, mark my words," she fumes and she sets about
bringing down the priest for something that has, in more recent years, become the
shame of the Catholic Church. But did anything happen?
The cast is splendid. Streep, her eyes red-rimmed with anger at the world she is forced to watch go to hell in a handbasket,
plays the school principal as world-wise, cagey, but occasionally overmatched. Streep and Hoffman are equally impressive.
Meryl Streep never seems to have a poor performance. This is one of her best roles in years. She deftly balances the
formidable side of this old-school nun, who even decries the use of ballpoint pens, with flashes of sardonic wit and, may I
say, doubt. Streeps portrayal of Sister Aloysiou put me so much in mind of another of her iconic characters, Miranda
Preistly in "Prada", you could almost subtitle this movie "The Devil Wears a Habit". Hoffman is equally convincing, as his
Father Flynn delivers impassioned sermons from his pulpit or cheerfully bucks some of the old-school sternness to which
Sister Aloysius still firmly adheres, and earning her hostility even before she suspects him of anything worse. The early
confrontation/accusation scene with Father Flynn shows just how right the casting of Hoffman was. The Oscar winner holds
his own opposite the great Streep, tipping from easy charm to fury in a flash. Their scenes together play like a fascinating
chess match. Adams is ideal as the novice teacher, serving as an almost narratorial conscience throughout the movie as
the young, idealistic Sister James.  Deftly depicting her transition from innocent naïvete to something sterner, more

Adams Sister James sole motivation in her world is Love. She treats her students and peers with compassion and
understanding. She wants to believe that people are basically good at heart. Love does not enter into the equation for
Streep’s Sister Aloysius, who buried her sense of compassion when she buried her husband during World War II. Streep’s
Aloysius is one who “knows people,” which essentially means people’s weaknesses, temptations, and evil. She can see
right through Father Flynn’s ugly manipulations, and maintains her certainty without flinching throughout the film. Streep is
as much a natural for this role as she is for any role she’s taken in years. Streep’s constant speech manipulations often
overshadow her unparalleled ability to adapt to the body mannerisms and attitude of whatever role she takes. But Sister
Aloysius’s is a role that plays to all her strengths: she commands authority, but is powerless against the patriarchy. She is
absolutely steadfast in her righteousness, but still vulnerable to her past and her image among the school community. It’s
one of her best performances of the decade,and possibly one of her best ever.

This film is not a typical Catholic church basher, but it does involve the scandals in the Church over the past several years,
even though set in 1964. Without giving anything away, it treated the subject honestly and fairly. Sister Aloysius (Ms.
Streep) is the Dirty Harry of St. Nicholas Catholic School, keeping both her resident nuns and their neighborhood student
charges on a short and tightly-held rein. As School Principal, she thinks it's her job to ensure that kids toe the line, and
whether they do it out of respect for authority (God's or hers) or fear of corporal punishment matters not to the good sister.
Enter the new parish priest, Father Flynn, whose management style is less authoritarian and far more accepting, he seems
better equipped to chum up with students than to engender fear in them. As a result of his openness, and his charismatic
preaching style, Flynn becomes an immediate hit with both students and parishoners, and immediately suspect by the stern
Sister Aloysius.
a severe lookign Meryl Streep in Doubt
a sweet innocent Amy Adams - Doubt
As outside observers, we may experience distaste for
the stern authoritarianism represented by Sister
Aloysius and harbor a quite natural sympathy for the
kind-hearted goodwill demonstrated by Father Flynn,
but we can't be sure that he isn't guilty of the heinous
act of which he is suspected. There are indications that
cause us to scratch our figurative heads and
speculate. The beauty of the script is that we simply
can't know for sure one way or the other. Flynn's mild-
mannered character, too, can exhibit bark, as he
demonstrates in the film's climactic confrontation. Flynn
and Sister Aloysius are alone in her office, tackling the
abuse accusation head-on, and no verbal holds are
being barred on either side.

Doubt is a stimulating film that tackles the concept of
reasonable doubt rather than overtly focusing on guilt
or innocence. By eloquently probing the state of
uncertainty and its accompanying discomfort and
confusion, “Doubt” compels viewers to examine their
own assumptions as they become caught up in this
fascinating tale.