Monday, December 29, 2008
When I saw the trailer for Doubt, I smacked my lips: it looked like an (un)holy combination of Agnes of God meets Notes From a Scandal, a mix of religio-mystic hokum and melodrama. Sad to say, Doubt was a lot worse. This farrago, adapted by and from John Patrick Shanley's play, lacks the basic mechanics of filmmaking to bring off Shanley's wisps of ideas. His idea of "opening up" his play is to visually dramatize a parable that Philip Seymour Hoffman tells (it involves the feathers from an opened pillowcase flying in the wind, of course). Ambiguities that might have teased onstage look like cop-outs on screen: is Hoffman a pedophile? Is the student gay? What are Amy Adams' motivations? Shanley's inspiration for this turgidly paced nonsense seems anachronistic: the manner in which he develops his ideas could have come from some 1950's conception of "provocative" subject matter (think Picnic, with William Holden in a wimple). Only Viola Davis comes closest to presenting something human and terrible onscreen, but if Shanley wanted real fireworks – real tragedy – why did he bury Davis' revelations in the middle of the movie instead of moving it to the beginning, where they would have forced the audience to reckon with them over the next ninety minutes? A similar eye-opener of a fact about Streep's personal life is mentioned once, an aside almost, and it changes not a bit of our understanding of her. Stephanie Zacharek: "Have no earthly idea what point Shanley is trying to make? It's all good -- you're just having Doubt."
Posted by Alfred Soto at 12:38 PM