After reading some of the reviews of the new "Doubt" movie, I was a bit hesitant to take it in. Reports that stars Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman were chewing up scenery left and right gave me pause.
Well, I'm happy to report that I witnessed no such scenery noshing on the screen. In fact, I found this movie version of John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer-Prize and Tony-Award winning play Doubt quite compelling, and I was thrilled at the nuance of the three central performances, including that of the always lovely and moving Amy Adams.
The movie starts off with some awkward and obvious directorial touches. (Shanley also directs the movie, from his own screenplay.) And there are certainly some moments when the actors appear at least on the verge of teetering off the precipice of subtlety into the chasm of melodrama. But in the grand tradition of movie mysteries, the film kept me guessing until the very end. And beyond.
Chief among the movie's assets are of course its three central performances. Are there any finer actors, on film or stage, than Streep and Hoffman? Streep gives a solid and credible performance here as the school principal on a mission. But Hoffman is the real star of the movie, bringing dimension and pathos to a complex character. Looking into his soulful yet inscrutable eyes, you could just as easily condemn as exonerate this priest, as portrayed by Hoffman. And Adams, as I've said, makes for an effective and affecting foil to Streep's grand inquisitor.
Oh, and a quibble. The official subtitle of the play version of Doubt calls it a parable. I'm at a loss to explain this notation. Doesn't a parable typically have a lesson to teach? Well, how can the play claim to be a parable when it goes out of its way to make you...well...doubt what's actually going on? Is Shanley being ironic? Anyone care to take a stab at a clarification?