Mirroring Angelina Jolie’s harrowing performance in Changeling and raising similar moral questions as in the Oscar winning movie The Reader, Doubt is another emotional adaptation (this from the play of the same name by John Patrick Shanley), which strikes at the insecurities of humanity and challenges the notion of how far one can and should be able to take their opinion.
Doubt takes in two of Hollywood’s most vibrant (and one unexpected) musical stars — the fabulously versatile Meryl Streep (Momma Mia!) and Amy Adams (Enchanted), and has the actresses exchange their dancing shoes for a couple of habits. Taking place shortly just after President Kennedy’s assassination in America, Amy Adams is Sister James, an innocent and stubborn religious teacher at St. Nicholas and Meryl Streep is the frightening and strict principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier. Both women find themselves caught up in a story where they believe whole-heartedly that the feminine and progressive head priest, Father Brendan Flynn (Phillip Seymor Hoffman) is in fact a child-exploiting pedofile. But how far can you journey in the pursuit of justice without proof? That is the central question put forth from this controversial blockbuster.
Although the scenery is generally rather bland and uninviting, Streep’s performance shines through superbly as the fierce and feisty head teacher — constantly fighting the idea of a society dominated by men — prepared to ‘stick to her guns’ no matter what the outcome or consequences. Meryl Streep, always a fan of waiting to the near end credits to reveal another layer to her character, shows (much like her portrayal of Miranda Priestly in 2007’s The Devil Wears Prada) that her head mistress’ menacing exterior is just an image. Underneath she learns she is equally prone to the same feelings and worries about life as everyone else in the world, thus making her human.
The dark and foreboding atmosphere that is used in Doubt, far better than in any movie I have ever seen, adds to the mystery with great effect. The awkwardly exciting confrontations between Hoffman and Streep’s characters are riveting. The comical moments, such as the one where Amy Adams declares her endearing love of Frosty the Snowman are a welcome break from the seriousness of the subject matter. And the hidden messages and dire warnings throughout the film, leave you as an audience member, in doubt, in doubt whether you can or should resist a second viewing.