Monday, February 16, 2009

Day Four: Doubt (2008) - Rank 4.5/5

If there's one thing I love about a great drama, it's when it features an engaging and uncompromising battle of wits between two powerful leads. That collision of the minds is the very heart of "Doubt." It's a film certain to secure another Best Actress Oscar for Meryl Streep, no doubt about it. Streep plays a fierce, traditional nun and principal of a Catholic elementary school and she does it with passion unequalled by many performances this year. As she exacted discipline on the students, it reminded me of my youth at St. Thomas More. While the majority of my teachers were not nuns (we did have a nun principal who also taught Spanish...Ah, Sister Rose Riley, where are you now?........a quick Google search revealed that she left the US to engage in mission work in Lebanon), the sense of discipline in the film mirrored that which was expected of me. Such discipline is what the parish priest, Father Flynn(a worthy performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman for bookending Meryl Streep), feels is alienating their school from the real world. The film then goes beyond the simple premise of: "Did Father Flynn molest an alter boy or not?" that many individuals perceive to be the film's core. The movie is about the difficult decisions that one has to make in life (primarily from the point of view of Streep's Sister Aloysius). Is a more community-friendly church what's best for the parish or not? Is it possible that such a relationship between the priest and a child is acceptable (as the boy's mother believes)? Is removing Father Flynn without proof the right thing to do? Is a relentlessly strict principal what the children really need? All these are dilemmas which Sister Aloysius must deal with and should any doubt arise after the matters are settled, then she must address a new question: How will she live with that uncertainty?" A must-see for the Oscar season.

Watch the Trailer

Incidentally, I enjoyed seeing Alice Drummond in a film again. For those unfamiliar with the name, she's probably best known for playing the librarian at the beginning of "Ghostbusters." She has a minor, though endearing role as a near-blind sister that Sister Aloysius tends to (showing that under her fierce exterior, there is kindness - a subtle, but important element to Streep's character).


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