Doubt

Playwright/screenwriter/director John Patrick Shanley’s adaptation of his own stage drama is directed with Clint Eastwood austerity and set in a working-class Catholic parish and parochial school in 1964 NYC. There, schoolchildren are kept in line by stern principal Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep in a hedge-clipped Bronx accent), a flinty alpha female of the old ways, who disdains even putting sugar in her tea. Sister Aloysius’ spre spot jovial Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the popular boys’ basketball coach and a recent arrival at the parish. One of Flynn’s altar boys, 12-year-old Donald Miller (Joseph Foster II), is the first black to be admitted to the school. Intuiting that Donald is friendless and vulnerable, Father Flynn takes a special interest in him. Soon Sister Aloysius launches into a personal investigation into Father Flynn, accusing him directly of being a calculating child molester. Doubt is a story intended to afflict the comfortable and, while the cast couldn't be better, it’s hard not to discern the moments that worked electrifyingly well in the intimacy of a stage presentation that were somewhat lost in the translation to film. File this in Catholic-movie purgatory alongside that Jane Fonda version of Agnes of God. HH 1/2
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