DOUBT (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
April 5, 2009 by Dennis Amith
” ‘DOUBT’ is a powerful and thought provoking film that features amazing performances from Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.”
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DURATION: 103 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 kHz/24-bit), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English SDH and Spanish subtitles
RATED: PG-13 (for Thematic Material)
COMPANY: Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
RELEASE DATE: April 7, 2009
Directed and Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley
Based on an original play by John Patrick Shanley
Produced by Mark Roybal, Scott Rudin
Executive Produced by Celia D. Costas
Associate Produced by Nora Skinner
Original Music by Howard Shore
Director of Photography: Rogear Deakins
Film Editing by Dane Collier, Ricardo Gonzalez, Dylan Tichenor
Production Design by David Gropman
Set Decoration by Ellen Christiansen
Costume Design by Ann Roth
Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Brendan Flynn
Amy Adams as Sister James
Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller
Alice Drummond as Sister Veronica
Audrie J. Neenan as Sister Raymond
Susan Blommaert as Mrs. Carson
Joseph Foster as Donald Miller
Mike Roukis as William London
Sister Aloysius (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 the 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 that certain is doubt. An in Blu-ray High Definition, with a picture as clear as Sister’s rules, and sound as sharp as her tongue, this film will stay with you long after the credits have ended.
Amazing performances from Streep, Hoffman, Adams and Davis. ‘DOUBT’ is a thought provoking film that leaves you feeling a bit unsettled at the film’s end.
“DOUBT” is a film based on the Tony Award winning play “Doubt: A Parable” by John Patrick Shanley. The play was so successful would take the popular play and bring it to the big screen and Shanley would be the screen writer and director.
Eventually, the film struck a chord with critics as “DOUBT” received five Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams and Viola Davis and Best Adapted Screenplay (John Patrick Shanley). And after watching the film, you realize that this film is definitely deserving of each of those nominations.
The story of “DOUBT” takes place in 1964, several months since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy at St. Nicholas Church school in the Bronx. Enter the following characters:
Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) – The new, young priest of the parish. Popular with the parents and the kids because of his progressive views. Very close to the children and helps coach their basketball team. Believes the school should be more accessible for the parish and thinking that people should be thought of as “members of the family”. Also, a few changes such as introducing a secular song into the Christmas song lineup. Things that Sister Aloysius is definitely against.
Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) – A very conservative nun who dislikes seeing the changes in today’s society and is also the principal of the school. Ruling with an iron fist, all the other sisters at the school are scared of her and her style of handling the children are quite strict. No ballpoint pins and an expectancy for the children to perform well in school without having to be coddled. Very good at using intimidation and fear to keep the students and her fellow sisters at the school in line.
Sister James (Amy Adams) – An inexperienced nun and teacher at the school. Very fearful of Sister Aloysius but has to work with her in reporting back to her in terms of the behavior of Father Flynn after she is suspicious of him being around the school’s first and only Black student, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), a bit too much, especially when the two are alone with each other.
One day at school, Donald Miller was called to meet with Father Flynn. Then she catches the Father putting a shirt into Miller’s locker. But what was more disconcerting was when Donald returned back from his meeting with Father Flynn. Looking very fearful and even smelling liquor in his breath. So, Sister James suspects something may be wrong and Sister Aloysius is convinced that Father Flynn is doing something inappropriate to the children.
For Sister Aloysius, she has had this problem before with another priest at a previous school and was eventually stopped but with St. Nicholas being ran by men, she feels that if they went to Monsignor Benedict about Father Flynn, they would not be treated with respect and possibly be transferred for subordination.
So, Sister Aloysius believes the only way they can work this out is if both of them confront Father Flynn in regards to Donald.
Of course, Father Flynn denies any wrong-doing but is severely disappointed with both sisters. He tells them if he wants to find the truth, then she should talk to him or the mother. And thus, Sister Aloysius decides to do just that. She meets with Donald’s mother (Viola Davis).
We learn from Mrs. Miller that Donald has been moved to different schools. Being the sole Black child at these schools, he has taken a lot of bullying, been harassed and has not made any friends. And when things are not going well in school, things are not looking good at home as he is physically abused by his father. When Sister Aloysius tells Mrs. Davis about her suspicions, Mrs. Davis doesn’t care. Because her son has found a person that truly cares about him and is willing to protect him. If her son is put in the center of this controversy in public, she has no doubt that her husband will beat her son to death.
Mrs. Miller pleads with the sister to please keep Donald out of this for his sake. All he needs is a few months and he will go to high school and he will be fine. And if she needs to do something, then get Father Flynn removed but to please keep Donald out of it. Mrs. Miller also drops a bombshell to Sister Aloysius about her son, which helps corroborate the Sister’s feelings about Father Flynn’s guilt.
Meanwhile, Sister Jane feels that perhaps Sister Aloysius doesn’t like Father Flynn and without proof she is going after him. Sister Aloysius tells her that she knows that Father Flynn has committed something terrible but Sister Jane feels that without proof, in her mind, Father Flynn is innocent and he was just trying to protect Donald.
But Sister Jane starts to have her doubts when she sees Father Flynn try to help Donald (who has his belongings knocked down by a student) but then give him this passionate hug that eventually makes her start to doubt.
This sets up a major confrontation between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn. How far will Sister Aloysius go to have Father Flynn removed from her school (and possibly losing his job) and will Father Flynn continue to deny any wrongdoing or is there something else going on? Does the sister really believe that Father Flynn is truly guilty or is she going after him due to her intolerance of wanting to change the school?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“DOUBT” is featured in 1080p High Definition with an aspect ration of 1:85:1. The picture quality is very good as you can see the pores on the skin of Philip Seymour Hoffman, so it is done quite well. But the film is mostly shot indoors. The colors are not so vibrant as the sisters and Father Flynn are typically wearing black and white. The school is featured in shades of brown and when shots are done outdoors, skies are gray and definitely not scenes that showcase much colors. In a way, there is a sort of darkness when watching the film, even though it is a film that takes place in a Catholic school.
Cinematography courtesy of the talent Director of Photography Roger Deakins (“No Country for Old Men”, “Shawshank Redemption”, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and many more), Deakins knows how to capture a mood and since he is one of my favorite DP’s, he manages to capture light and dark moods of the film.
As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 kHz/24-Bit) and French 5.1 Dolby Digital. One thing that really came out quite well through my system in hearing the various soundtrack in DTS-HD is the music. From the choir to the score, it comes out quite clear during the film. For the most part, the film is dialogue-based. Dialogue is clear but this is not a film to expect major usage of your rear channels.
“DOUBT” comes with several informative special features:
- From Stage to Screen—(19:06) An intimate discussion with playwright, screenwriter and director John Patrick Shanley about the history of “Doubt”, including his inspirations for the story, the acclaim the play’s Broadway run received, the Pulitzer Prize and the process of adapting it for the screen. Joining the conversation are Meryl Streep and Sister Margaret McEntee (a consultant on the film and Shanley’s former teacher).
- Scoring Doubt—(4:37) Renowned composer Howard Shore discusses his inspiration for the music in the film and his collaboration with both John Patrick Shanley and producer Scott Rudin.
- The Sisters of Charity—(6:28) In an insightful and lively dialogue, Meryl Streep and John Patrick Shanley discuss the interviews that Shanley did before shooting with real nuns to discuss their lives and make sure they would be accurately portrayed in the film.
- Feature Commentary with John Patrick Shanley – (103 minutes) For the commentary, we get a bit of insight of John Patrick Shanley’s experience of going to a Catholic school in the Bronx and trying to utilize what he remembers and making it come to life on film. Shanley talks about the various talent, various scenes and how certain shots came about.
- The Cast of Doubt— (13:30) Ew.com’s discussion with actors Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. A fun and insightful conversation with the talent and their feeling about the film and if the critics would get it.
“DOUBT” is a thought provoking film. Taking what we have seen in the last decade with certain pastors accused and having gotten away for child molestation, “DOUBT” tries to show viewers that even back in 1964, a perspective of how this was happening and despite some people having doubts about a priest and a few of those individuals with a close relationship with the younger altar boys, what makes this film much more entertaining is watching Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman really going off each other and both delivering powerful performances.
Meryl Streep’s transformation to Sister Aloysius is just impressive and her ability to project intimidation to even the viewer showcases her multiple-award winning talent. Philip Seymour Hoffman is just a man who is well liked but to Sister Aloysius, it’s about how far she will go to use her intimidation against him. But as intimidating as she is to the Father. The truth is that the system and hierarchy of how things are handled in the church reside in the leadership of men, not so much towards the women. So, Hoffman then engages in intimidation towards Sister Aloysius. Needless to say, the exchange between both individuals is quite powerful. Which one of these individuals engages in their own perfidy?
The other impressive performances go to Amy Adams as Sister Jane. She exhibits innocence, purity and someone trying to comprehend why Sister Aloysius is the way she is and if she can possibly bring something new to the school with her warmer style. Unfortunately, this style is similar to Father Flynn’s and a style that Sister Aloysius is against. So, to see the fear and intimidation that the Sister Jane is feeling is well projected by Adams.
And Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller. Despite having only several minutes on screen, her performance as a mother who has seen her son tormented and defeated, beaten and made to feel as an outcast, is willing to let him allegedly be in the companionship of the father, because he is the only person that has been there to protect him. Twisted logic it may be, but considering the time this film takes place and that he was the sole Black person being integrated into the school, you feel sympathy for Mrs. Douglas but at the same time feel a bit disgusted. Nevertheless, Viola Davis really did a great job portraying the mother in this film.
“DOUBT” is indeed a powerful and though provoking film. The final minutes leave you feeling a bit unsettled. But the film is indeed a pleasure to watch because of the power of the performances by the four key talents of the film.
They made their characters so believable and because of that, “DOUBT” was able to flourish into this intriguing and gripping film. By the end of the film, you have no doubt in your mind that Streep, Hoffman, Adams and Davis were definitely deserving of their Academy Award nominations. Highly recommended!
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