Doubt (2008 film)

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Doubt
Doubtposter08.jpg
US Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Patrick Shanley
Produced by Scott Rudin
Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley
Based on Doubt: A Parable 
by John Patrick Shanley
Starring
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography Roger Deakins
Editing by Dylan Tichenor
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release dates
  • October 30, 2008 (2008-10-30) (AFI Fest)
  • December 12, 2008 (2008-12-12) (United States)
Running time 104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20 million
Box office $50,907,234[1]

Doubt is a 2008 American drama film adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize winning fictive 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. It premiered October 30, 2008 at the AFI Fest before being distributed by Miramax Films in limited release on December 12, 2008 and in wide release on December 25.

The film's four main actors were heavily praised for their acting, and all of them were nominated for Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards.

Plot[edit]

Set in 1964 at a Catholic church in the Bronx, New York, the film opens with the jovial 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 Beauvier (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 that would inspire Father Flynn to preach about doubt, and instructs them to keep their eyes open should any such behavior occur in the future.

Sister James (Amy Adams), a young and naive teacher, observes the closeness between Father Flynn and Donald Miller, an altar boy and the school's only black student. One day during class, Sister James receives a call 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 in the gymnasium, she sees Father Flynn placing a white shirt in Donald's locker. She reports her observations to Sister Aloysius.

Under the pretext of discussing the school's upcoming Christmas pageant, Sisters Aloysius and (to a lesser extent) James voice their suspicions that Father Flynn's 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. Finally, he is pressured into admitting that Donald had been caught drinking altar wine, and he had promised Donald not to tell anyone about the incident. Having now been forced to break that promise and reveal the truth, he will need to dismiss Donald as an altar boy, which he had been trying to avoid. Before leaving, Father Flynn tells Sister Aloysius he is displeased with her handling of the situation. His next sermon regards gossip and how it is easily spread.

Initially, Sister James is relieved and convinced of Father Flynn's innocence, but Sister Aloysius's belief that he has behaved inappropriately with Donald is unshakable. Sister James later asks 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 offers a reasonable explanation for the situation and Sister James's doubts are assuaged.

Sister Aloysius meets with Donald Miller's mother regarding her suspicions. Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis) shocks Sister Aloysius with her lack of interest in the alleged misconduct on Father Flynn's part. As far as she is concerned, Donald need only last to the end of the school year, as graduation from a prestigious church school would increase his chances of going to a decent high school. It is hinted that Donald is homosexual and revealed that his father is abusive, with the dialogue between them indicating that the father's anger is fueled by his son's effeminacy. Mrs. Miller begs that Sister Aloysius drop the matter, feeling that Father Flynn is a source of inspiration to Donald and a shield from the abuse he receives at home. She becomes angry when Sister Aloysius refuses to compromise and threatens to throw Donald out of the school. Mrs. Miller believes that Donald would be punished for a thing of which he was not the cause.

Despite having no evidence and no support from anyone, Sister Aloysius again confronts Father Flynn and demands that he tell her the truth; otherwise, she will go to the Bishop. Father Flynn is adamant that there is no illicit relationship, but Sister Aloysius claims that she has learned that he has a history of problems, having moved to three different parishes in the last five years. She tells him that she has contacted a nun from one of his prior churches (she refuses to say whom), who corroborated her suspicions. Father Flynn is furious that she has contacted a nun rather than the church's pastor, which is proper church protocol. Sister Aloysius tells him he doesn't deserve to wear the collar, and asks for his resignation. Unable to stand up to her determination to ruin his reputation, he succumbs to her demands.

Following his final sermon, Father Flynn steps down from the pulpit and shakes hands with the members of the congregation. Some time later, Sisters Aloysius and James are sitting together in the church garden. Sister Aloysius tells Sister James that although Father Flynn resigned, the bishop has appointed him to pastor at a larger church and its parochial school, in essence promoting him to a more prestigious position and perpetuating the same issue with Father Flynn. She then admits she lied about speaking to a nun at Father Flynn's former church, and thus drove him out with no more than her suspicions; her justification is that if Father Flynn truly were innocent of wrongdoing, he would not have given in. 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 she has paid a price in pursuing the wrongdoing of Father Flynn. While discussing her inability to fully expose Father Flynn and have him dismissed from the diocese as a whole, she reflects upon her larger faith in the diocese as she breaks down in tears and says to Sister James: "I have doubts...I have such doubts." The film ends with Sister James comforting Sister Aloysius.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Production began on December 1, 2007.[2] The film, which concentrates 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. The film is dedicated to Sister Margaret McEntee, a Sister of Charity nun who was Shanley's first-grade teacher and who served as a technical adviser for the movie, after whom Shanley modeled the character of Sister James.

Reception[edit]

Based on 203 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 78% 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] Meryl Streep's performance as the stern, intimidating and bold principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier gave her critical acclaim. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams' performances also received acclaim.

Viola Davis' performance as Mrs. Miller 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]

National Public Radio called Davis's 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]

Roger Ebert, who thought Davis's 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."[9]

The film and the cast earned numerous awards and nominations including five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress for Streep, Best Supporting Actor for Hoffman, Best Supporting Actress for both Adams and Davis, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Shanley.

The scholar Daniel S. Cutrara, in his booked on sex and religion in cinema, has commented that the film works as a metaphor for the world's uncertainty over priests accused of pedophilia - specifically through Father Flynn's resignation as an indication of guilt and then Streep's character's subsequent doubt.[10]

Top ten lists[edit]

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

Awards[edit]

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

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
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
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
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
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
Viola Davis Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Cast Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Doubt". Box Office Mojo. 4 January 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Pincus-Roth, Zachary (19 April 2007). "Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman to Star in Doubt Film". Playbill. Retrieved 7 February 2008. 
  3. ^ "The benefit of the 'Doubt'". Daily News (New York). 5 February 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2008. 
  4. ^ "Doubt - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2008. 
  5. ^ "Doubt (2008):Reviews". Metacritic. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2008. 
  6. ^ The New York Times Movie Review of Doubt, Dec 12, 2008
  7. ^ Madden, Mike (2008-12-12). "Stephanie Zacharek". Salon.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  8. ^ "Viola Davis Tackles Fear, Shines In 'Doubt'". NPR. 2008-12-10. Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  9. ^ Ebert review
  10. ^ Cutrara, Daniel S. (March 15, 2014). Wicked Cinema: Sex and Religion on Screen. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-75472-0. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved January 11, 2009. [dead link]

External links[edit]