Let the fur fly. In the first review of Doubt, Todd McCarthy is casting seeds of doubt on Meryl Streep’s performance.
Like Frost/Nixon, this play-to-screen adaptation is a small-scale period two-hander. The movie enjoyably pits Streep as a tough nun at a Bronx Catholic school against powerful priest Philip Seymour Hoffman. She thinks he’s up to no good with a young black student. He thinks she has no basis to prove him wrong. Amy Adams is caught in the middle as a young, trusting nun. The great thing about the play–and the movie–is that we never know for sure who’s right. Does the nun have the moral right to act on her instincts that the priest could do the child harm? John Patrick Shanley (who won an Oscar for writing Moonstruck) does a beautiful job of translating his play to the screen.
Oscar-wise, despite McCarthy’s concerns about Streep–who definitely adds more nuance and character details to the role as written—the Academy actors should reward Streep for this, and Viola Davis in supporting, for just one bravura scene. With the actors behind it and impeccable production credits the movie is a strong contender, even though it’s small, for best picture, adapted screenplay, actress, supporting actress, and music. Here’s Pete Hammond.
Doubt’s greatest strength is that it invites debate and discussion. I haven’t had this much fun arguing about a movie since No Country for Old Men. Almost a year later, my post about that film’s pesky ending is still generating comments.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]