- Doubt (2008 film)
US Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Patrick Shanley Produced by Scott Rudin Written by John Patrick Shanley Starring Music by Howard Shore Cinematography Roger Deakins Editing by Dylan Tichenor Distributed by Miramax Films Release date(s) October 30, 2008(AFI Fest)
December 12, 2008 (United States)
Running time 104 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $20 million Box office $50,907,234
Doubt is a 2008 film adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize winning fictional stage play Doubt: A Parable. Written and directed by Shanley and produced by Scott Rudin, the film stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. It premiered on October 30, 2008 at the AFI Fest before being distributed by Miramax Films in limited release on December 12, 2008 and in a wide release on Christmas Day.
The film's four main actors were heavily praised for their acting, and all of them were nominated for Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards. Viola Davis received her first nomination and Amy Adams received her second nomination for Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Philip Seymour Hoffman received his second nomination of Best Supporting Actor, and third overall, while Meryl Streep received her outstanding twelfth nomination for Best Actress and her fifteenth overall.
Set in 1964 at a Catholic church in the Bronx, New York, the film opens with Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) giving a sermon on the nature of doubt, noting that, like faith, it can be a unifying force. The next evening, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), the strict and conservative principal of the attached school, discusses the sermon with her fellow nuns, the Sisters of Charity of New York. She asks if anyone has observed unusual behavior that would inspire Father Flynn to preach about doubt, and instructs them to keep their eyes open should any such behavior occur in future.
Sister James (Amy Adams), a young and naïve teacher, observes the closeness between Father Flynn and Donald Miller, the school's only black student and an altar boy. One day during class, Sister James receives a call asking for Donald Miller to meet Father Flynn in the rectory. When he returns, Donald is distraught and Sister James notices the smell of alcohol on his breath. Later, while her students are learning a dance in the gymnasium, she sees Father Flynn placing a white shirt in Donald's locker. Sister James reports her observations to Sister Aloysius.
Under the pretext of discussing the school's upcoming Christmas pageant, Sisters Aloysius and (to a lesser extent) James voice their suspicions that Father Flynn's relationship with Donald may be inappropriate. Several times Father Flynn 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 admitting that Donald had been caught drinking altar wine, and he had promised Donald not to tell anyone about the incident. Having now been forced to break that promise and reveal the truth, he will need to dismiss Donald as an altar boy, which he had been trying to avoid. Before leaving, Father Flynn tells Sister Aloysius he is displeased with her handling of the situation. His next sermon regards gossip and how it is easily spread, as a sort of retaliatory gesture.
Initially, Sister James is relieved and convinced of Father Flynn's innocence, but Sister Aloysius's belief that he has behaved inappropriately with Donald is unshakable. Sister James later asks Father Flynn about the shirt she saw him leaving in Donald's locker, having not revealed this detail to Sister Aloysius. They discuss his relationship with the boy. Father Flynn offers a reasonable explanation for the situation and Sister James's doubts are assuaged.
Sister Aloysius meets with Donald Miller's mother regarding her suspicions. Mrs. Miller (Viola Davis) shocks Sister Aloysius with her disinterest 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 revealed that his father is physically abusive, with the implication that one causes the other. Mrs. Miller begs that Sister Aloysius drop the matter, feeling that Father Flynn is a source of inspiration to Donald and a shield from the abuse he receives at home. She becomes angry when Sister Aloysius refuses to compromise and threatens to throw Donald out of the school. Mrs. Miller believes that Donald would be punished for something he was not even the cause of.
Despite having no evidence and no support from anyone, Sister Aloysius again confronts Father Flynn and demands that he tell her the truth; otherwise, she will go to the Bishop. Father Flynn is adamant that there is no illicit relationship, but Sister Aloysius has learned that he has a history of problems, having moved between three different parishes in the last five years. She tells him that she has contacted a nun from one of his prior churches (she refuses to say whom), who corroborated her suspicions. Father Flynn is furious that she has contacted a nun rather than the church's pastor, which is proper church protocol. Sister Aloysius tells him he doesn't deserve to wear the collar, and asks for his resignation. Unable to stand up to her determination to ruin his reputation, he succumbs to her demands.
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 although Father Flynn resigned, the bishop has appointed him to pastor at a larger church and its parochial school, in essence promoting him to a more prestigious position. She then admits she lied about speaking to a nun at Father Flynn's former church, and thus drove him out with nothing more than her suspicions; her justification is that if Father Flynn truly were innocent, he would not have given in. Repeating a line from earlier in the film, Sister Aloysius says that "in the pursuit of wrongdoing, one steps away from God."
Sister Aloysius concludes that one also pays a price in pursuing wrongdoing. She breaks down in tears and says to Sister James: "I have doubts...I have such doubts."
- Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier
- Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Brendan Flynn
- Amy Adams as Sister James
- Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller
- Joseph Foster as Donald Miller
- Alice Drummond as Sister Veronica
- Paulie Litt as Tommy Conroy
Production began on December 1, 2007. The film, which centers 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. 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.
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." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a 68/100 approval rating based on 36 reviews. 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."
Viola Davis' performance drew her critical raves. Salon magazine declared that Davis' 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."
NPR 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."
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."
Top ten lists
The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.
- 2nd – James Berardinelli, ReelViews
- 2nd – Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
- 8th – Kyle Smith, New York Post
- 8th – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
- 9th – David Edelstein, New York magazine
- 10th – Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
- 10th – Shawn Levy, The Oregonian
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 Best Supporting Actress 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 Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Nominated Best Adapted Screenplay John Patrick Shanley Nominated Critics' Choice Awards Best Picture Nominated Best Actress Meryl Streep Won Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Nominated Best Acting Ensemble 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 Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Viola Davis Nominated Best Screenplay – Motion Picture John Patrick Shanley Nominated Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Won Best Cast Won National Board of Review Awards Breakthrough Performance by an Actress Viola Davis Won Best Cast 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 Actress in a Supporting Role Viola Davis 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 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Viola Davis Nominated Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Won Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won Best Cast Won
- ^ "Doubt". Box Office Mojo. 4 January 2009. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=doubt.htm. Retrieved 07 October 2011.
- ^ Pincus-Roth, Zachary (19 April 2007). "Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman to Star in Doubt Film". Playbill. http://www.playbill.com/news/article/107473.html. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
- ^ "The benefit of the 'Doubt'". Daily News (New York). 5 February, 2008. http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/galleries/the_benefit_of_the_doubt/the_benefit_of_the_doubt.html. Retrieved 7 February 2008.
- ^ "Doubt - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. 30 December 2008. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/doubt. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
- ^ "Doubt (2008):Reviews". Metacritic. 30 December 2008. http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/doubt. Retrieved 30 December 2008.
- ^ The New York Times Movie Review of Doubt, Dec 12, 2008
- ^ Madden, Mike (2008-12-12). "Stephanie Zacharek". Salon.com. http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/review/2008/12/12/doubt/index.html. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- ^ "Viola Davis Tackles Fear, Shines In 'Doubt'". NPR. 2008-12-10. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98088645. Retrieved 2010-04-27.
- ^ Ebert review
- ^ a b c d e f g h "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. http://www.metacritic.com/film/awards/2008/toptens.shtml. Retrieved January 11, 2009. [dead link]
- Official site
- Times online, "John Patrick Shanley's Doubt: in the church of poisoned minds"
- Doubt at the Internet Movie Database
- Doubt at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Trailers". Apple: Miramax. http://www.apple.com/trailers/miramax/doubt/.
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