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I can appreciate a film constructed around a concept, but to work that film better nail the intended concept. Doubt is, unsurprisingly, about doubt and as such should give the viewer a lot to ponder about doubt. However I, when enveloped in the world of Doubt, doubted the importance of the doubt portrayed, and I seriously doubt that was the intent.

It won’t be too long before the discussion grows too spoilery and I’ll have to shove it all after the jump so let’s get the Oscar stuff out of the way. Doubt tallied four acting nominations since it is a Very Serious Acting Movie. Meryl Streep’s Sister Aloysius, headmistress at a Catholic school in 1960s the Bronx, believes Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Flynn has entered into an inappropriate relationship with a young pupil. Amy Adams’s Sister James brings the initial allegation to Aloysius and feels torn between the two as Aloysius pursues him without firm evidence. Viola Davis has a couple emotional scenes as the potential victim’s mother with a shocking agenda.

Streep is sometimes dead-on and sometimes a little hammy. She is always a force on the screen, however, even when I wondered why something was being played up so dramatically. I liked Hoffman, as I usually do. He imparts a lot of humanity into a character who we are led to believe may have done something quite terrible. Even at his darkest moments I felt like I’d enjoy having a drink with him or even would have liked him as a teacher. Davis’s brief appearance seems to have moved many people though I’m not sure I would have made any special note of it without the Oscar hype. I think maybe part of the performance was lost on me since the substance of her scenes was occupying me, and not usually in a good way (more on that later). And Adams, well, as I said in one of our nomination prediction posts I usually enjoy her but this time she was just one-note and chirpy. What worked so well in Enchanted is now growing stale, between this and Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. She seemed to just get swept up in this wave of acting nominations for the film because I don’t think she contributes much to her character, and neither she nor her character contributes much to the film.

As for everything else, it failed to sneak into Best Picture or Director, thankfully. It’s Adapted Screenplay nod is pretty weak considering it probably took The Dark Knight‘s spot. (By the way, writer/director John Patrick Shanley’s only other film? Joe Versus the Volcano!) That was the end of its Oscar journey, but it is very effective in transporting the viewer to another time. I’ve heard several comments, including from my mother, about how brilliantly it recreates the world of a Catholic school at that era down to the smallest detail, so some credit must be due in areas such as cinematography, costume, and art direction even if those nominations failed to materialize.

And truth be told it’s a pretty good movie. The plot is interesting and naturally dramatic. The setting and peek into the Catholic church at a time of pretty dramatic institutional change are interesting. The characters are really great and fleshed-out, especially Aloysius and Flynn. Doubt has a clear objective, however, and it doesn’t meet it. A film built on a central thesis has trouble succeeding if that thesis fails, no matter how great the periphery elements are. And so it works in a way, but not in the intended way.

I know the fellow Grouches I’ve discussed this with disagree with me, but I think a significant amount of people who see Doubt are going to leave the theater thinking it’s a film about (spoiler time- continue on after the jump) Read the rest of this entry »

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I’m kind of curious as to who actually loved Revolutionary Road.  As near as I can figure, it cater to people who want their philosophy of “Life sucks and then you die” affirmed.  But only in the American middle class definition of “sucks,” of course.  Oh, wait, I got it.  People who found Titanic insufferable and knew deep down that if Leo and Kate had ended up together, they’d be absolutely miserable.

Otherwise, I don’t know.  The film is ninety minutes of DiCaprio and Winslet whining at each other.  Which is exactly as much fun as it sounds like.  John asks if people sympathize with one character over the other.  It is a good question, the answer to which probably reveals something about ourselves.  Other than bros before, um, gardening tools, I’d offer that neither is particularly likable.  Which I guess is sort of interesting in that in the movie they are repeatedly referred to as the “fun” couple, but really I’d rather hang out with just about any other character in the movie.

That’s all I got.  The film is pretty clearly failed Oscar-bait.  It isn’t bad, but it drags, is repetitive and doesn’t have much in the way of redeeming qualities.  I felt after filming they went back and inserted a few soliloquies nearly at random for Kate Winslet in an effort to bolster her Oscar chances.  Because if there is one thing people like more than whiny characters, it is whiny characters who drone on.

I hinted at it above, but I guess I sorta liked all the minor characters.  Kathy Bates had been tipped by some for a nomination, which is silly in my mind, but she was fun.  I enjoyed Kate and Leo’s neighbors, and I think I would have much more love for the movie if they featured more prominently.  And Leo’s co-workers were all very amusing, in a film that could have benefited from more comic relief.

And then there’s Michael Shannon.  Call me a dreamer, but I think I just might start a Michael Shannon for Bond villain bandwagon.  His character pretty much runs roughshod over the movie.  I mean, his character is a well-worn plot device and it is probably misused, but a definite breath of fresh air.  So yeah, his awesomeness is probably amplified by the more subdued nature of the rest of the film.  But the nomination is still deserved, I’d say.

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