tcc: doubt

January 3, 2009

“what did you hear? what did you see, that convinced you so thoroughly?”

i was watching the charlie rose interview with the entire cast and writer director of doubt recently, when john patrick shanely said that when writing the screenplay for the film he was really able to add something more to the film.  he could flesh out the different aspects of the church and the school.  he was able to add more characters to the film and create a much more rounded view of the setting and the school.

doubt centers around a catholic school and church in the 1960s, when sister aloysius (meryl streep) and sister james (amy adams) believe something not so holy is going on with the head pastor father flynn (philip seymour hoffman).  they haven’t seen anything overly incriminating, and when confronted about what they have seen father flynn does have an answer.  the film then leads to a few different confrontations in which the main characters go back and forth on what they believe, the merits of intuition, and the implications of doubt.

amy adams continues to impress me with a tremendous performance in this film.  she is perfect at playing the earnest unsuspecting character.  and i love the way that shanely positions both the sister aloysius character and father flynn.  aloysius at first glance seems to be that atypical catholic school nun teacher; mean and spiteful.  but shanely inflects her with humanity.  whether it’s the way she looks out for the other nuns in the church, or the way she sort of takes sister james under her wing and guides her as a teacher, or even the way we see her fighting for what she believes is the welfare of the children.  she truly does care about the kids in the school even if she doesn’t show it the same way sister james does.

i love the way shanely challenges our notions of sin and judgement.  we’re never 100% sure what father flynn has or has not done, but there is the possibility that he has done something heinous.  but shanely shows flynn in such a great light.  regardless of what he really did do, he truly cares about the students.  i love the small little scenes of him interacting with the students; when he’s coaching them on basketball, or helping them with girl troubles around the lunch table.  we have to take stock of how we truly react to his situation and what we actually believe.

the big scenes in the film, the scenes of huge confrontation, do not disappoint.  and i defy anyone to mention a scene that is filled with greater suspense and emotion than the sister aloysius father flynn final encounter.  this film turns out 3 of the greatest performances of the year, and is one of the most thought provoking and adrenaline filled films of the year.

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2 Responses to “tcc: doubt”

  1. morgan. Says:

    one of the many things i loved about this film was the humanity shown in streep’s character. it would have been so easy to portray her as harsh and unapproachable, to make the viewer sympathize with hoffman’s character. unfortunately i saw alot of myself in her. i enjoy enforcing the rules, but not following them.

  2. johnheberle Says:

    ha. nobody likes following rules.

    that was one thing i was really kind of dreading about the film was how they were going to portray the characters, were they going to be stereotypes? but shanely really infuses all the characters with humanity. and that challenges us as the viewer to really work hard to decipher who did what, who should we believe, and how should we react to each of them. we can’t just write her off as the a-typical mean old nun, and we can’t write him off as the child molesting priest. he makes the film feel way more authentic than i think most directors would.


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