Friday, April 3, 2009

Doubt DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Five-Time Oscar-Nominated Drama Comes to DVD

If you’re wondering how a holy man of the cloth might fool his congregation while secretly using a boy as his personal sex toy, check out Doubt. The film features a quartet of Academy Award-nominated performances including those by Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who square-off as suspicious Sister Aloysius and the guilty-of-something Father Flynn, respectively. The story is set at a parish in the Bronx in 1964, where Aloysius is the steely principal of a school which has just admitted its first black student, an 8th grader named Donald (Joseph Foster).
Her alarm bells go off when his teacher, Sister James (Oscar-nominee Amy Adams), hints that Flynn has taken a special interest in the lonely lad and even went so far as to summon the kid from class for a private meeting in the rectory. The two nuns confront the priest who, in turn, takes offense at the suggestion that his intentions toward the needy newcomer could possibly be anything other than honorable.
But the unconvinced Aloysius remains ever-vigilant, and the rest of the picture is devoted to her repeated frustrations at being unable to catch the pair in flagrante delicto. Worse, she gets no help from Donald’s mother (Oscar-nominee Viola Davis), who’s just happy as a clam to have a father figure come into her son’s life.
As unseemly as such a development sounds, it rings true given the way the Church was conveniently cloaked in secrecy back in those days when words like gay or sexual abuse still had to be whispered in polite company. Thus, it would have been easy for Flynn to hide his kinky transgressions, if any.
As the title implies, Doubt isn’t particularly concerned about clearing up the mystery. Rather, it would prefer to have you scratching your head at the end. Without ever seeing the priest actually crossing a line, we’re left to draw our own conclusions as to whether he belongs behind bars or if Sister Aloysius is simply being overzealous.
Call me crazy for expecting a more tidy resolution of this ultimately unsatisfying parable, in spite of a taut plotline and several inspired performances. Is that it?

Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes.
Running time: 104 minutes
Studio: Miramax Home Video
DVD Extras: Director’s commentary, plus four featurettes: “Scoring Doubt,” “The Cast of Doubt,” “The Sisters of Charity,” and “Doubt: From Stage to Screen.”

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