Christmas time is my time to catch up on the serious movies released around this time for Oscar consideration. Today I went to see "Doubt," the new Philip Seymour Hoffman-Meryl Streep vehicle written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his award-winning play of the same name. The play won the 2005 Tony award for Best Play. The film should enjoy similar success come award season.
The movie is about a parish priest in NYC (Hoffman) who is persecuted by the principal of the Catholic school associated with the parish by the school's principal who was also a nun and mother superior (Streep) based purely on her suspicion that the priest might be getting a little too 'familiar' with the lone Black kid in the school, a loner ostracized by the other students. Still, despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the writing is witty rather than dour, at times even laugh-out-loud funny (God I love good writing)!
The story takes place in the year after the Kennedy assasination (IC was in high school in Texas that year) although the students seem to be about middle school age (what we would have called 'junior high' back then--why the change?!).
Fans of good acting and good writing will find a lot to love in this movie. Still as good as Hoffman and Streep are, and they indeed give the proverbial Oscar-worthy performances, the actor who steals the show is Viola Davis as the mother of the putative victim. She's only on the screen for 15 minutes but, if there is any justice, she will be nominated and win for "Best Supporting Actress" at the 2009 Oscars. She will be familiar to most for her roles on "Law and Order" and "Grey's Anatomy," but I certainly look for her star to rise after this. Worth the price of admission.
"Doubt" was further graced by the wonderful cinematography of the Great Roger Deakins ("No Country for Old Men" and most of the other films by the Coen Brothers).