F.I.L.M. of the Week (March 2, 2012)

2 03 2012

Not HER again…

Actually, YES, her again.  Meryl Streep won her third Oscar last week, and while many (including myself) were a little upset because we were hoping Viola Davis would pull out a historic Best Actress win, it’s reason for celebration.  She’s the greatest living actress, and I think few would dispute that claim.  The way she gracefully and naturally inhabits any character she chooses to play is astounding.  “Doubt,” my choice for the “F.I.L.M. of the Week,” is no exception.  It was Oscar nominations all around for everyone in the cast including Streep, who received her fifteenth Oscar nomination for the role back in 2008.

John Patrick Shanley’s film, adapted from his own Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play, explores a host of complicated moral and theological dilemmas in the wake of a potential priest-child sex scandal.  Streep’s Sister Aloysisus becomes convinced that Father Flynn, played with a fiercely tenacious resolve by Philip Seymour Hoffman, has committed a vast wrongdoing despite having no proof.  Her basis for such grave accusations are the suspicions of the naive Sister James (Amy Adams), who merely makes observations and leaves Aloysisus to construe her own meaning from them.

What results is nothing less than an acting battle between some of the best players in the game.  They debate race, gender, sexuality, submission, and authority with such high stakes that you can’t help but be totally drawn into the conversation.  No one would accuse Streep or Hoffman as giving constrained performances in the film, but “Doubt” hardly devolves into a shouting match as it easily could have.  Rather, the dialectic struggles are only enhanced by the loudness of their voices.  Adams, meanwhile, plays her typecast airhead role so well yet with a remarkably enhanced bravura.  She really nails the loss of innocence arc that so often devolves into senseless banality.  Davis is phenomenal as well in a single scene that packs more punch than many actresses can in an entire movie.

Hopefully Adams and Davis aren’t too far off from finally winning the Oscar that has eluded them for the past few years; Streep can now sit back and enjoy the ride; Hoffman is probably due for a second trophy at some point.  So while we wait for the next Oscars, we can relish in movies like “Doubt” where four great actors act with so much intensity that the frame can barely support it.

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