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Doubt

US Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Patrick Shanley
Produced by Scott Rudin
Written by John Patrick Shanley
Starring Meryl Streep
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Amy Adams
Viola Davis
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Editing by Dylan Tichenor
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date(s) October 30, 2008 (AFI Fest)
December 12, 2008 (limited)
December 25, 2008 (wide)
Running time 104 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Gross revenue $37,309,677[1]

Doubt is a 2008 film adaptation of the John Patrick Shanley stage play Doubt: A Parable. Written and directed by Shanley and produced by Scott Rudin, the film stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis, who were all nominated for Oscars at the 2009 ceremonies. It premiered on October 30, 2008 at the AFI Fest before being distributed by Miramax Films in limited release on December 12, 2008 and in a wide release on Christmas Day.

Contents

Plot

Set in 1964 at a Catholic church in the Bronx, New York, the film opens with Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) giving a sermon on the nature of doubt, noting that, like faith, it can be a unifying force. The next evening, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the strict principal of the attached school, discusses the sermon with her fellow nuns, the Sisters of Charity of New York. She asks if anyone has observed unusual behavior to give Father Flynn cause for preaching about doubt, and instructs them to keep their eyes open for any such behavior.

Sister James (Amy Adams), a young and naive teacher, observes the closeness between Father Flynn and Donald Miller, the school's only black student and an altar boy. One day during class, Sister James receives a call in her class asking for Donald Miller to meet Father Flynn in the rectory. When he returns, Donald is distraught and Sister James notices the smell of alcohol on his breath. Later, while her students are learning a dance, she sees Father Flynn placing a white shirt in Donald's locker. On guard for unusual behavior, Sister James reveals her suspicions to Sister Aloysius.

Under the pretext of discussing problems with the school's Christmas play, Sisters Aloysius and James confront Father Flynn with their suspicions that his relationship with Donald may be inappropriate. Several times Father Flynn asks them to leave the matter alone as a private issue between the boy and himself but Sister Aloysius persists. Father Flynn then reveals that Donald had been caught drinking altar wine and that he had promised Donald not to tell anyone about the incident, and to allow Donald to remain an altar boy. Having now been forced to break that promise and reveal the truth, he will need to dismiss Donald as an altar boy. Father Flynn tells Sister Aloysius that he is displeased in the way she handled this.

Initially, Sister James is relieved and convinced of Father Flynn's innocence, but Sister Aloysius' belief that he has behaved inappropriately with the boy is unshakable. Sister James later confronts Father Flynn about the shirt she saw him leaving in Donald's locker, having not revealed this detail to Sister Aloysius. They discuss his relationship with the boy. Father Flynn reveals a reasonable explanation for the situation and Sister James' doubts are assuaged.

Sister Aloysius sends for Donald Miller's mother to reveal her suspicions. Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis) shocks Sister Aloysius by stating that she should not pursue the matter further and that he only has to last until the end of the school year before he goes on to attend high school. She also hints at Donald's homosexuality and reveals that his father is physically abusive, suggesting that the abuse is on that account. She begs Sister Aloysius to drop the matter, and rationalizes Donald's relationship with Father Flynn to protect him from his father, and because his chances of going to a better high school would increase after finishing from a prestigious church school.

Despite having no evidence and no support from Donald's mother, Sister Aloysius in their final showdown demands that Father Flynn tell the truth or she will go to his superiors. Father Flynn repeats that there is no illicit relationship, but Sister Aloysius says she knows that he has a history of problems, having moved to three different parishes in five years. She tells him that she has contacted a nun at one of his prior churches (she refuses to say whom) and that this nun corroborated her suspicions. Father Flynn is furious that she has contacted a nun rather than the church's pastor; the latter being the proper church protocol. Sister Aloysius demands that he resign. Father Flynn explains that he cannot tell her everything, suggesting the possibility that he has not been physically inappropriate with Donald, but has befriended him because he, too, is homosexual. However, unable to stand up to her willingness to destroy his reputation, he succumbs to her demands.

Following his final sermon, the nuns sit together in the church garden. Sister Aloysius tells Sister James that although Father Flynn has left, he has been promoted from assistant pastor to that of pastor at a different church and its parochial school, in effect a promotion. She goes on to reveal that she lied about speaking to a nun at Father Flynn's former church, and thus never found hard evidence against him. Repeating a line from earlier in the film, Sister Aloysius says that "in the pursuit of wrongdoing, one steps away from God."

Sister Aloysius concludes that one also pays a price in pursuing wrongdoing. She breaks down in tears and reveals to Sister James "I have such doubts."

Cast

Production

Production began on December 1, 2007.[2] The film, which centers on a Bronx Catholic school, was filmed in various areas of the Bronx, including Parkchester, St. Anthony's Catholic School, and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, as well as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.[3] The "garden" exterior scenes were shot at the historic Episcopal Church St. Luke in the Fields on Hudson Street in New York's Greenwich Village. The associated St. Luke's School was also heavily featured.

Reception

Based on 203 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 77% approval rating. The site reported in a consensus that "Doubt succeeds on the strength of its top-notch cast, who successfully guide the film through the occasional narrative lull."[4] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a 68/100 approval rating based on 36 reviews.[5] Critic Manohla Dargis of The New York Times concluded that "the air is thick with paranoia in 'Doubt,' but nowhere as thick, juicy, sustained or sustaining as Meryl Streep's performance."[6]

Viola Davis' performance drew her critical raves. Salon magazine declared that Davis' character Mrs. Miller was acted with "a near-miraculous level of believability ... Davis, in her small, one-scene role, is incredibly moving - I can barely remember a Davis performance where I haven't been moved ... [she] plays her character, an anxious, hardworking woman who's just trying to hold her life and family together, by holding everything close. She's not a fountain of emotion, dispensing broad expression or movement; instead, she keeps it all inside and lets us in."[7]

NPR called Davis' acting in the movie "the film's most wrenching performance ... the other [actors] argue strenuously and occasionally even eloquently, to ever-diminishing effect; Davis speaks plainly and quietly, and leaves [no] doubt that the moral high ground is a treacherous place to occupy in the real world."[8]

Neoconservative political columnist John Podhoretz thought Davis's role stretched credulity. "We are supposed to imagine that a put-upon working-class black woman in 1964--Viola Davis, who may win an Oscar for best supporting actress largely because she goes without a tissue for a few minutes--would possess an attitude so profoundly progressive that she would put the video-making opponents of California's Proposition 8 to shame."[9]

Roger Ebert, who thought Davis' performance worthy of an Academy award, gave the film four stars, his highest rating, and praised its "exact and merciless writing, powerful performances and timeless relevance. It causes us to start thinking with the first shot," he continued, "and we never stop."[10]

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.[11]

Awards

Doubt received five Academy Awards nominations on January 22, 2009, for its four lead actors and for Shanley's script.

Awards
Award Category Recipient(s) Outcome
Academy Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay John Patrick Shanley Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Leading Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards Best Picture Nominated
Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Best Writer John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Won
Detroit Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Amy Adams Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Viola Davis Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Won
Best Cast Won
National Board of Review Awards Breakthrough Performance by an Actress Viola Davis Won
Best Cast Won
Palm Springs International Film Festival Spotlight Award Amy Adams Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Viola Davis Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Meryl Streep Won
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Amy Adams Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Viola Davis Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Cast Won

References

External links


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