Doubt (2008) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Drama
Miramax || PG13 - 103 minutes - $34.99 || April 7, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-04-14


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: John Patrick Shanley
Writer(s): John Patrick Shanley (play); John Patrick Shanley (screenplay)
Cast: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis


Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • 4 Featurettes


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (DTS-HD 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Nominated for an amazing five Academy Awards, 4 in the acting categories, Doubt deserved every one of those, yet somehow the film’s weakest area is that of John Patrick Shanley’s adapted screenplay – of his own stage play – also got a nomination. It’s not that Doubt isn’t a good movie, but more a disappointingly underachieving one.

I realize this film received plenty of critical fanfare stating it as “One of the best films of the year”, yet when it ended, I could only be puzzled by some of the over-the-top aspects, especially dialogue that was all too on the nose ringing false with each word and the symbolic visuals to either pump up the drama (lightning at a key dramatic moment) or drive home the story. And then there’s the countless times the characters say the word “Doubt”, including a closing conversation at the very end which put the nail in the coffin for what could’ve been a fantastic film.

The basic plotline for the movie is about a strict and traditional nun, Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), who despises the Saint Nicholas Church School priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a progressive man who wants to open the doors to the Church more by becoming friendlier (versus Beauvier’s iron fist) and even allow secular songs for the Christmas pageant. She also believes there was an improper relationship between Flynn and the school’s only black student, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster).

Though there’s no proof of abuse, Beauvier believes in her heart that it is true, propelled by the fact Flynn asked to see Miller in the middle of class and afterward Miller’s history teacher, Sister James (Amy Adams), thought Miller was acting strange and had the smell of alcohol. Flynn explains this away finally that a fellow student had caught Miller drinking the communion wine and he withheld this as this would make sure Miller could not remain as an altar boy (Miller has aspirations to become a priest). Who is right?

Doubt is a film with aspirations but never quite lives up to them. It’s a quiet movie that takes its time with the plot, so patience is necessary, but if you can get beyond the slow nature, you will find some of the greatest performances in one film in quite a long time.

The highlight of the film, of course, is Meryl Streep who commands each scene without going over the top and/or with grandiosity. She plays a flawed character with strict convictions playing off of the Philip Seymour Hoffman character that is progressive in his religious beliefs, a conflict between two religious philosophies. And for his part, Hoffman provides a certain weight that makes you question whether the actions Beauvier’s accusations were in fact true.

The movie’s strongest suite side from the strong cast including Amy Adams and Viola Davis (in a small but effective role), is the conversation it creates after the credits begin to role. Did he do it? Is there another reason for those actions? Was Beauvier just out to get Flynn out due to his progressive beliefs or in fact she is protecting a helpless boy? Doubt is an aptly named title as people will have different viewpoints.

Where the film fails is with writer/director John Patrick Shanley’s screenplay and clichéd direction (the aforementioned lightning bolt and thunderclap). Obviously there should be nobody better to adapt outside material than the creator, but I believe Shanley and the film as a whole would have benefited from another screenwriter to take a look at certain lines – the last line/conversation was absolutely laughable and almost tarnished a great performance – and even another director more capable of translating a stage play’s drama to the big screen. Not to put down Shanley’s experience, but his previous directing effort came in 1990 with Joe Versus the Volcano...

In the end, Doubt is a good film but slightly overrated with the amount of critical praise heaped upon it. The performances from the four key cast members are all great and certain aspects of the story are all good enough to make this a moderate recommendation.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

All features are presented in HD (1080p/i).

First up is an insightful feature commentary with writer/director John Patrick Shanley. No matter what my thoughts may be on the writing or direction of the film, Shanley provides an interesting, though low-key, track with “random thoughts” on the filming of Doubt. He gives info on where scenes were shot and how semi-biographical the film was.

The disc also has a few featurettes (descriptions taken from menu):

From Stage to Screen (19:06) – An intimate discussion with cast and crew that explores the evolution of the film: from real life, to stage and finally screen. I’m always fascinated how movies are made from other source material (be it comic books, novels, plays, etc) so this is an interesting featurette. Again, I may not have been enthralled with how it was adapted, this is still worth watching.

The Cast of Doubt (13:50) – This is the EW.com discussion with Actors Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. The cast talks about their experience making the film, whether they had seen the stage play prior and other items of discussion.

Scoring Doubt (4:37) – Renowned composer Howard Shore discusses his inspiration for the music in the film, from specific songs to the overall theme.

Sisters of Charity (6:28) – In preparation for the film, director John Patrick Shanley sat down with real nuns, in this insightful documentary, Meryl Streep and Shanley bring you into the lives of these truly remarkable women.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Doubt comes on Blu-ray in 1080p high-definition with a 1.85 aspect ratio. The picture overall doesn’t look bad at all, although I did notice a few bits of dust marks here and there and parts of the film were a tad soft (director’s style choice). There was also some noise in some areas but none of it was distracting.

The disc also includes a nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This is a dialogue heavy movie with some music cues, so there’s not a whole lot to judge here. In any case, the dialogue sounds good coming via the center channel while the score and other ambient noises comes through the front (primarily) and rear speakers.



.::OVERALL::.

Although I feel Doubt is a bit overrated with its critical praise outside of the performances, it is still a worthy viewing because of Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I wouldn’t recommend buying the Blu-ray but a rental would be worth it to see for yourself as the video is pretty good and the audio is acceptable.