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Philip Seymour Hoffman
Doubt: From Stage to Screen
The Cast of Doubt
The Sisters of Charity
Feature Commentary with Writer/Director John Patrick Shanley
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 Color (Anamorphic)
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1 [CC]
French: Dolby Digital Stereo
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Run Time: 103 min
Synopsis from DVD Cover:
Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Streep), the rigid and fear-inspiring principal of the Saint Nicholas Church School, suffers an extreme dislike for the progressive and popular parish priest Father Flynn (Hoffman). Looking for wrongdoing in every corner, Sister Aloysius believes she's uncovered the ultimate sin when she hears Father Flynn has taken a special interest in a troubled boy. But without proof, the only thing certain is doubt.
I don't always enjoy movies that make me think. I mean, I appreciate them, and I like them, but I don't always ENJOY them, you know, in that way where not only does it make you think and you appreciate all its thought-provoking nuances but you also kind of want to see it again? Well, that's how I felt about "Doubt" - it's more than just a showcase for a quartet of superb actors making me question the essence of how I determine what truth is. It's also very darn entertaining.
When Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II) blazes the trail of first black student at St. Nicholas Catholic School in the early sixties, he's not exactly Mr. Popularity. Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes a special interest in Donald, in some ways making his school life easier, until Head Nun Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) starts to question just how deep their relationship goes. What ensues is a battle of wills between the Sister's sense of tradition and Father Flynn's desire to bring his church into the modern era, a battle tainted by the threat of possible scandal and unfounded accusations that could either ruin a good man's life or expose a horrible secret.
"Doubt" began its life on stage as a play by John Patrick Shanley, so the fact that he actually directs the movie version allows his vision to remain pretty much intact. It moves like a play and feels like a play, and it's definitely a film that spotlights its actors. Streep is rigid and bitchy, but she gives Sister Aloysius a surprisingly sly sense of humor that adds layers to a woman who could have come off as one-dimensional. Hoffman is also as good as he always is as Father Flynn, and even though we love him and want to believe him, Hoffman never makes it easy to jump on the bandwagon that clears him of all guilt. The supporters are fantastic as well; Amy Adams is spot on in her idealism, and Viola Davis, whose only two scenes are with Streep, steals them both. There are a few drawbacks, like the storms that rage outside the school during pivotal arguments - seriously, I don't need my drama underlined. Also, even though, to me, this next thing is a plus, if you're the type who needs answers in their entertainment, this is not the film for you.
In the Extras department, "Doubt" actually has a bit more than a smaller film like this usually puts out. The most entertaining is "From Stage to Screen," a look at the experiences and locations shown in the movie; Shanley's Audio Commentary is also decent. Then there's "Sisters of Charity," an interview with four real nuns - one is the real-life inspiration for Adams's sister James character. "Scoring Doubt" is cool if, you know, you like scores, and "The Cast of Doubt" is a little less than 15 minute long bit of interview time with the major cast.
So, for my money, "Doubt" is everything a movie should be - memorable performances, compelling story, and enough brain stuff to make you think about it long after it's over, trying to decide just which kind of truth is most important.