Doubt (2008 film)

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Doubt
Doubtposter08.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Patrick Shanley
Produced byScott Rudin
Screenplay byJohn Patrick Shanley
Based onDoubt: A Parable
by John Patrick Shanley
Starring
Music byHoward Shore
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Edited byDylan Tichenor
Production
company
Distributed byMiramax
Release date
  • October 30, 2008 (2008-10-30) (AFI Fest)
  • December 12, 2008 (2008-12-12) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$20 million
Box office$50.9 million[2]

Doubt is a 2008 American period drama film written and directed by John Patrick Shanley based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning stage play Doubt: A Parable. Produced by Scott Rudin, the film takes place in a St. Nicholas school led by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). Sister James (Amy Adams) tells Aloysius that Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) might have too much personal attention with the school's only black student Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), thus leading to Aloysius starting a crusade against Flynn. The film also features Viola Davis as Donald Miller's mother, Mrs. Miller.

The film premiered October 30, 2008 at the AFI Fest before being distributed by Miramax Films in limited release on December 12 and in wide release on December 25. Streep, Hoffman, Adams, and Davis were heavily praised for their performances, and all were nominated for Academy Awards at the 81st Academy Awards.

Plot[edit]

In 1964 at a Catholic church in The Bronx, New York Father Flynn gives a sermon on the nature of doubt, noting that like faith, doubt can be a unifying force. Sister Aloysius, the strict principal of the parish school, becomes concerned when she sees a boy pull away from Father Flynn in the school courtyard. At dinner, she asks her fellow nuns if they know why Father Flynn would preach about doubt, and instructs them to be alert to a possible problem in the school.

One day during class, Sister James, a young and naive teacher, receives a request for Donald Miller, an altar boy and the school's only black student, to meet Father Flynn in the rectory. When he returns, Donald is upset and Sister James notices the smell of alcohol on his breath. Later, she sees Father Flynn placing an undershirt in Donald's locker. She reports her suspicions to Sister Aloysius.

Sisters Aloysius and James confront Father Flynn. Several times, he 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 saying that Donald had been caught drinking altar wine and that he will now need to be dismissed as an altar boy. Sister James is relieved and believes Father Flynn's explanation, but Sister Aloysius is not convinced.

Father Flynn gives a sermon on bearing false witness and gossip. Sister James asks him about the shirt he put in Donald's locker, an observation she had kept from Sister Aloysius. Father Flynn explains that the boy had left the shirt in the sacristy, and that he had put it in the locker to spare the boy additional embarrassment. Flynn goes on to say that it is he, not Sister Aloysius, that really cares about the boy.

Sister Aloysius meets with Donald Miller's mother regarding her suspicions. Mrs. Miller 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 that his father is physically abusive because of it. Mrs. Miller begs Sister Aloysius to leave Donald out of her campaign against Father Flynn.

Father Flynn demands that Sister Aloysius stop trying to destroy his reputation. Sister Aloysius responds that he must confess and resign. 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, who corroborated her suspicions. Father Flynn is furious that she has contacted a nun rather than the church pastor, which is proper church protocol. Sister Aloysius threatens to visit his previous parishes and contact parents if necessary. Father Flynn agrees to request a transfer.

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 despite her warning, the bishop has appointed him to pastor at a larger church with a parochial school, promoting him to a more prestigious position and perpetuating the problem. She admits to having lied about speaking to a nun at Father Flynn's former church, saying it would not have worked if he was innocent. Sister Aloysius concludes that she has paid a price in pursuing the wrongdoing of Father Flynn. She breaks down in tears and says to Sister James: "I have doubts...I have such doubts."

Cast[edit]

The starring cast of Doubt. From top to bottom: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis

The other sisters in the film include, Alice Drummond as Sister Veronica, Audrie J. Neenan as Sister Raymond, and Helen Stenborg as Sister Teresa. The child actors who played the students of the school include Mike Roukis as William London, Frank Shanley as Kevin, Frank Dolce as Ralph, Paulie Litt as Tommy Conroy, Matthew Marvin as Raymond, Bridget Clark as Noreen Horan, Molly Chiffer and Sarah, and Lydia Jordan as Alice. The actors who played the other staff of the school include, Susan Blommaert as Mrs. Carson, Carrie Preston as Christine Hurley, John Costelloe as Warren Hurley, Margery Beddow as Mrs. Shields, Marylouise Burke as Mrs. Deakins, and experienced character actor Jack O'Connell as Mr. McGuinn.

Production[edit]

Production began on December 1, 2007.[3] 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.[4] 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."[5] Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a 68/100 approval rating based on 36 reviews.[6] 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."[7] 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 universal acclaim.

Viola Davis's performance as Mrs. Miller drew her critical raves. Salon magazine declared that Davis's 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."[8]

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."[9]

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."[10] Ebert goes on to say, "The conflict between Aloysius and Flynn is the conflict between old and new, between status and change, between infallibility and uncertainty. And Shanley leaves us doubting."[11]

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 book on sex and religion in cinema, has commented that the film works as a metaphor for worldwide uncertainty over priests accused of pedophilia—specifically through Father Flynn's resignation as an indication of guilt and then Sister Aloysius' subsequent doubt.[12]

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 Doubt Nominated
Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep 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 Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep Won
National Board of Review Awards Breakthrough Performance by an Actress Viola Davis Won
Best Cast Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep 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 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 Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep 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 Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Doubt (15)". British Board of Film Classification. December 18, 2008. Retrieved October 4, 2016.
  2. ^ "Doubt". Box Office Mojo. 4 January 2009. Retrieved 7 October 2011.
  3. ^ Pincus-Roth, Zachary (April 19, 2007). "Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman to Star in Doubt Film". Playbill. Archived from the original on April 27, 2007. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  4. ^ "The benefit of the 'Doubt'". Daily News (New York). 5 February 2008. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
  5. ^ "Doubt – Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
  6. ^ "Doubt (2008):Reviews". Metacritic. 30 December 2008. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
  7. ^ The New York Times Movie Review of Doubt, Dec 12, 2008
  8. ^ Madden, Mike (2008-12-12). "Stephanie Zacharek". Salon.com. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  9. ^ "Viola Davis Tackles Fear, Shines In 'Doubt'". NPR. 2008-12-10. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  10. ^ Ebert review
  11. ^ "Doubt", Roger Ebert.com
  12. ^ Cutrara, Daniel S. (March 15, 2014). Wicked Cinema: Sex and Religion on Screen. University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-75472-0.

External links[edit]