Running Time: 1 hr 44 mins
Plot Synopsis: A charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend a schools’ strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her guilt-inducing suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school.
With the awards season now over, and the attention of all in the movie business now placed firmly on the summer movie season, it’s time for all the uber-hyped award nominated films to hit shelves for the first time on DVD. I’d love to say that I saw all those movies multiple times already, but unfortunately I couldn’t do so. I never got to see Doubt, from beginning to end (I’d seen large chunks though). Oscar nominated films tend to be so powerful, so emotional, so intense, that I feel the overwhelming desire to add them to my personal collection. So, I picked up a copy of Doubt, and since it hadn’t been reviewed here yet, I decided to give it watch so I could write a review for all of you. So that you’ll know whether or not you should spend your hard earned money on it. Sometimes, Oscar nominations can be misleading, and in this economy, you simply can’t go wasting money now can you?
Doubt is a potentially confusing story loaded with symbolism. This isn’t the type of movie you could watch at the end of your day, right before bed. If you’re not paying close enough attention, there are many things you could miss that would greatly affect what you take away from the film. I’m not saying that it is unwatchable, or that it is just too confusing for the average viewer; just making sure you know well in advance that this is a thinking person’s movie. All that nonsense out of the way, my final impressions of the film after 3 viewings, is that Doubt is a powerful drama that’s all about change. The story is a religious one, but you don’t need to be religious to enjoy this film. Is it perfect? No. Should you run out and buy the DVD… Probably not. But Doubtis a film that I’d definitely recommend you check out. Add it to your wishlist on Netflix. There’s plenty of value there.
This movie touched on some interesting themes; certainty vs. doubt, and traditionalism vs. progressivism. This is where the symbolism mostly comes into play. The characters and their thoughts/actions are seriously contrasting. Hoffman’s character, Father Flynn, is representative of the wave of change that was sweeping the nation at the time (circa 1964). The nation was facing serious changes; from “equality” between races to dealing with the Kennedy assassination, it was a tense time. Standing in stark contrast to Father Flynn and his desire to change the ways the church interacted with the community and the students in the adjoining school, was Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the hard nosed and iron fisted principle of the school. Sister Beauvier was a staunch supporter of the church’s established traditions, and she was a strict disciplinarian who enforced those traditions through fear. The two together represent progressivism and traditionalism. When the two “clashed” there was always an act of nature acting as a symbol for their emotions and the consequences of their actions. The strong wind blowing through the grounds were a clear representation of the winds of change sweeping across the nation. At one point, Sister Beauvier mentioned that she had never seen winds as strong as the ones that were blowing at the time. It would’ve been easy to miss all of this, especially if you were not paying attention.
Unfortunately, very few of the posed questions were clearly answered. There is a whole lot of ambiguity in the answers provided to us. You could argue that the ambiguity was intentional, and that it played into the film’s title, leaving us with plenty of doubt about the whole situation. Another major flaw of this film is that it reaches climax so fast, and leaves you disappointed. In fact, you may not even realize that the climax has come and gone until the end credits start rolling. I found myself immensely disappointed that everything happened so quickly. The movie built up the tension to a point where you expected something major to resolve it all, and instead of resolving the conflict with a bang, it goes out with a fizzle.
Overall, Doubtwas a movie that received a boat load of hype, but fell shockingly short of the expectations set by that attention it received during awards season. I enjoyed the movie. I liked the story, and I loved the themes it attempted to tackle. The acting was amazing! Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep were at the top of their game, and proved once again that they are two of the most talented actors in Hollywood. But even with all those things going for it, it still failed on enough levels to make the film a disappointment. I’d recommend that you watch Doubt, if for no other reason than to see the amazing and strong performances by Hoffman, Streep, and even Amy Adams. But I just can’t recommend that anyone buy this movie. I can’t find a reason, even a bad one, for someone to add it to their collection. It was a good movie, but not that good. I recommend you rent it, and check it out for yourself. Just don’t throw away $29.99 on a Blu-Ray DVD that you’ll only get to watch and enjoy once.