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Directed by John Patrick Shanley.
Written by John Patrick Shanley.
Starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  12/20/08


Based on the play of the same name, "Doubt" takes us to church to remind us that "maybe" really does mean "maybe."

Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a pastor at a New York church in 1964.  Father Flynn appears to be very close--ahem, VERY close--to one of his alter boys, Donald (Joseph Foster), who also happens to be the only black child at this parish/school.  One day, while in the history class of Sister James (Amy Adams), Donald is summoned to the rectory by Father Flynn to have a private meeting...a dirty undershirt and some other questions later, Sister James brings to the matter to the school's principal and lead headhunter, Sister Beauvier (Meryl Streep), who then considers what to do next in this matter of possible abuse.

But, as there are a number of maybes to the case, and the fact that there is no "law" present when it comes to these matters, "Doubt" does a great job of creating just that, right down to the film's interesting ending.  The film also gets a ton of mileage out of its three main leads, and Streep, Hoffman and Adams are all excellent in laying off their character's beliefs and why we think they will never stray from those initial concepts.  My assumption is that this play was originally done by writer/director John Patrick Shanley, and in the conversion, I wonder what has been changed (if anything) to make it work on the big screen...but, as it is, "Doubt" has plenty going for it, but it is never a work of art like some other films I have seen this year have been.

Some of that is the fairly ordinary camerawork by Roger Deakins, who I love (he shot the majority of the Coen Brothers' films, as well as "The Shawshank Redemption") but underwhelms here; some of that is the blah child acting in "Doubt", not a major flaw but something that could have brought the whole thing up a notch; some of that is the genius of not giving us a definitive answer ending, but instead the one we get.

All of this is to say that "Doubt" has no major flaws, and is a very well-performed drama.  I think it's the kind of movie that voters discuss for Best Picture, but no one really becomes an advocate for it because it doesn't do any one thing that is truly special or remarkable.  Still, a great afternoon matinee!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09