There isn’t much to Doubt.
Nothing fancy, just a conflict of characters, an exploration of human nature. One character is self-absorbed, evil, grinds on you, drains your energy and is easy to judge. Another is pure, open and innocent. The personality of the last character could go either way. This is where doubt plays into Doubt.
Meryl Streep is Sister Aloysius Beauvier. She thinks Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Brendan Flynn is a child-molesting pervert. Sister James is the fulcrum, a person who sees but isn’t sure exactly what. She is played by Amy Adams.
Set in 1964, Streep’s sister is the headmaster of a school. Sister Beauvier prowls the halls of the school and walks the aisle of Flynn’s church. She’s a tyrannical, humorless, taskmaster looking down her pointed nose at everyone and constantly correcting students and her staff of nuns.
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Everyone is frightened of her.
Hoffman’s Flynn loves his flock and thinks times have changed and the church needs to be more friendly. The concept doesn’t fit her way of thinking. When he helps a young African American child in quiet, one-on-one meetings, she attacks and accuses him of molestation.
But there isn’t proof -- or is there?
Writer/director John Patrick Shanley does a most excellent movie interpretation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It doesn’t hurt to have acting’s reigning queen and the world’s best not-a-household-name actor going toe-to-toe.
Their scenes will remind you of a down-to-the-final-bell, winner-of-the-last-round-takes-the-title heavyweight championship fight. Intense doesn’t quite describe the outcome. They dance around the first reel or two getting to know each other. Then out of the blue, Streep wallops Hoffman. He counters. She feints, he jabs. The slugfest gets serious and both end up scoring a knockout.
Rarely are we treated to an acting tandem like this one. Doubt is not to be missed.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Dec. 25 at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.