17 January 2009

At the movies: Doubt.

In adapting his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play, John Patrick Shanley (the masterful Joe Versus the Volcano) gives us the acting steel cage match of 2008: in this corner, Meryl Streep as the tough-as-nails nun who takes no crap, and in the other corner, Philip Seymour Hoffman as the progressive priest with a secret. Grab your rosaries and some popcorn, because sparks will fly- this is the Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla of Oscar bait.

With its central Hoffman/Streep showdown, its addressing of issues of sexual impropriety amongst the clergy, and its focused and claustrophobic use of the central church school setting, Doubt is primed for Oscar gold. Already legendary character actress Amy Adams (Enchanted, Drop Dead Gorgeous) also shines as the voice of steadfast decency, and Viola Davis, always a mark of quality, takes a two-scene cameo and makes it an indelible portrait.

It's Acting with a capital A here, folks, with Streep tearing into her role with a steely presence at times reminiscent of The Blues Brothers' Mother Superior- it's hard to believe how ebullient she was in Mamma Mia! In comparison to this. She hits around eighty-five percent of the time, but when she misses (that is, the very end), it's a doozy. Theatre buffs and anyone who likes to see acting titans battle shouldn't miss this.

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