Sunday, January 4, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews Double Take: Doubt

My only real motivation for seeing this movie was because it's an Oscar contender, nothing more visceral, so I went in with lowered expectations, which can often help. I was definitely entertained and more often than not engaged if not completely enraptured, so I'd qualify it a good moviegoing experience. The plot and the issues it explores are wonderfully ambiguous to just the right degree, giving you enough for discussion fodder without being frustrating. It's not just a question of innocence or guilt, it's a question of whether the latter is necessarily always wrong. Walking out of the theater, I could interpret the conclusion a number of ways and none of them felt wrong; more importantly, I was ok with that. Outside of the plot, though, were mechanical aspects of the film that in some cases elevated it and in other cases did the opposite. My favorite thing about Doubt is probably the way it is shot. There are no quick cuts; every shot is long, deliberate and creates an effect that you need to be paying attention. John Patrick Shanley, who both wrote the play adapted for the movie and directed the film, did an excellent job. As to the performances, this is where I'd deduct points. It's rare when Meryl Streep is a potential hindrance to anything she's in, but this could well be one of those instances. Her performance is powerful and her character is alternately terrifying and strangely sympathetic, but she takes it a little too far more than once, drifting close to parody. When she's on, she's Meryl Streep (which is a good thing), but when she hams it up, scenes that should probably be serious risk becoming comedy. I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was brilliant; charming but with that right hint of possibly sinister intent, his priest is the standout character of Doubt, in my opinion. Rounding out the main trio, Amy Adams is a great actress whose work I enjoy, but she seems to have a limited range of characters she'll slip into. In this case, it was the meek, timid girl who is afraid of her own shadow, and that's probably my least favorite from her repetoire. When Streep and Adams share scenes, what should be acting showcases too often became SNL sketches. As for Viola Davis, she was great, but I think the "she turns in an Oscar-worthy showing in 15 minutes" hype is way overblown. I would definitely recommend Doubt if for no other reason than it will give you something to talk about afterwards for sure.

And now, for another take, here is my fiancee, Megan...

Okay so I really really liked Doubt. I read the play a few years ago, but I never got to see it on Broadway which I was really bummed about. I was thrilled when I found out that they were making a movie and I was not at all disappointed (and I'm a really tough critic). I, like Ben, loved the way it was shot. Shanley used a lot of angles, and it just made the piece more interesting. It's always cool to think about why a director makes choices like that. Anyway, loved it! Now I have not always been a Meryl Streep fan, but I really loved her in this. I thought her acting was impeccable and every choice was deliberate and effective. Amy Adams' character was interesting. I didn't love her, but I definitely didn't hate her. Her character was everything and that was annoying at times. But her eyes are so expressive. In a piece like this, its all about the body language and I think she nailed it. She was just a little "one note" for me and that is really my only complaint. Philip Seymour Hoffman was really great. I'm a big fan. BUT he was SO whiny. I felt like he would be in these great powerful moments and then he would WHINE. "what do you want me to doooooooo" whine whine whine. I was most disappointed in his performance, but that being said I didn't hate it. I still liked what he did with the character. He was charming and by the end, the audience is really torn about whether he did it or not. Finally Viola Davis. I agree with Ben. There was alot of hype surrounding her character (I was doing part of the hyping). I thought she was wonderful, but not nomination-worthy. I thought she was very effective, but I think the hype is more about what she says as a character (kudos to Shanley) then what she does as an actress. During her scene she had snot dripping out of her nose and I couldn't stop looking at it. That's a bad sign on so many levels. Overall, I really liked it. I thought it translated from stage to screen very well. Go see it! You'll enjoy it and there will be much to talk about, especially if you disagree whether he did it or not (like Ben and I did). :)

1 comment:

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