"Doubt" *** (104 minutes)

Wednesday December 3, 2008

SHEEE'S BAAAAAAAAACK!!! Meryl Streep, that is, in writer/director John Patrick Shanley's adaptation of his Pulitzer/Tony award winning play. Shanley burst onto the scene in 1987 when he wrote "Moonstruck". But his record as a director is not as sparkling, directing the mediocre "Joe Versus the Volcano" in 1990. Eight years later, he's back directing his own award winning play. This 2 1/2 star movie is elevated to a 3 based on Streep's riveting, and sure to be Oscar nominated, portrayal of Sister Aloysius Beauvier, who is a Principal at a 1964 Bronx Catholic school. Kind of a cross between Hitler and the Wicked Witch of the East, Meryl sinks her fangs into a role that will have you shaking in your boots even though you are seated far from the action. It seems Sister Beauvier is out to get Father Flynn (the always superb Phillip Seymour Hoffman) when she perceives that there was hanky panky going on with the school's lone African-American student after being informed by naive teacher Sister James (Amy Adams) that the student had alcohol on his breath after his meeting with Father Flynn. But is there anything REALLY going on here-or is it a misinterpretation and/or overreaction? Hence the title and subject of this piece. I never saw the play but knowing its origin leads me to believe that it probably lends itself better by being on the stage instead of the screen as the action tends to be stilted and claustrophobic. The joy in this one comes from the confrontations between Hoffman and Streep, as well as a fantastic supporting role by Viola Davis who is sure to be AA nominated as the student's mother. You may be debating whether or not a moral wrong is at the center of the film. But in the end, will you care?

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