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#1 of 32 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted December 30 2008 - 06:06 PM

(Moved from what is now the Official Review thread.)

I've been holding back any comments on Doubt, because I want to hear other people's reactions. I don't come to the film "fresh", having seen the original stage production twice; so I bring a lot of baggage to the movie that most viewers won't have.

Shanley kept the basic story and much of the original dialogue, but he substantially reshaped the play for the screen. The result is almost half an hour longer than the play, which lasted only 90 minutes and hurtled forward like a theatrical juggernaut. The film takes more time to set the scene, and I can't tell whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Patrick, in light of your review, what did you think of Viola Davis as the boy's mother? For me, in both the play and the movie, that character's appearance midway through is like a punch in the gut. I've always admired Davis, but this may be the finest work I've ever seen her do. (It's a great part; the actress who did it on Broadway won the Tony.)
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#2 of 32 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 30 2008 - 08:57 PM

This thread is now designated the Official Discussion Thread for "Doubt". Please, post all comments, links to outside reviews, film and box office discussion items to this thread.

All HTF member film reviews of "Doubt" should be posted to the Official Review Thread.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.


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#3 of 32 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted December 31 2008 - 02:35 AM

DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING SPOILER IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM!













Regarding Father Flynn and Donald Miller. I don't think he molested Donald. I think Father Flynn is a surpressed homosexual and that he is trying to protect Donald Miller not just because he's black, but recognized that Miller is also gay.





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#4 of 32 OFFLINE   Ennsio

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Posted December 31 2008 - 07:10 AM

Just saw this movie last night with my wife, and we both loved it.

One of the things I liked about it so much was that there was not enough evidence given to the viewers or the other characters to be able to come up with a clear answer either way - was Father Flynn guilty or innocent of Sister Aloysius's charges? Was he guilty of something else? Both sides presented compelling arguments and there really was not enough evidence to be able to decide, which I believe was the whole point of the story.

Personally, I don't think Father Flynn did anything bad with Donald Miller, although his mother's speech (which was incredible) suggests that Donald might try to make some advances on the Father. I do think that Father Flynn felt guilty for doing other things though that he did not find really bad but thought the church in its traditional ways would look down on (reflected in the whole fingernails bit) and so he did not want to go down that road to bring those out into the open or hurt Donald through any public discussion of the situation. I can't say for sure though, and maybe Crawdaddy is right as well. That's the beauty of this story.

#5 of 32 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted December 31 2008 - 10:21 AM

Shanley designed the play so that no one could prove either way what happened. People would walk out arguing intensely over their theories. Shanley even refused to tell the actors, and the actors would shift their performances from night to night, depending on how the audience seemed to be reacting. If the audience seemed to be leaning in favor of Father Flynn, the actor playing him (Brian F. O'Byrne, most recently cousin Colin on Brotherhood) would make him subtly more sinister, and the actress playing Sister Aloysius (Cherry Jones, currently the President on 24) would soften her character. If the audience seemed to be leaning against him, Father Flynn would be played more gentle and mild, and Sister Aloysius would be even more of a battle-axe.

Obviously, film doesn't allow for that kind of flexibility. But my real concern with the film is that it has to show you too much. On stage you never saw Donald Miller, or any other student. They were left to your imagination. The film shows you much more detail, which means that Shanley, as both writer and director, has to work much harder to keep everything in balance and uncertain. I'm not sure he succeeds. There's something much more obviously "off" about the film's Father Flynn. In the play you were never sure about him. (Well, I wasn't. Other audience members were as certain as Sister Aloysius.)

Shanley has said that he was inspired to write the play after observing that the dominant mode of discourse today is one of certainty, and that so many people today are like Sister Aloysius: brooking no opposition, passionately committed to a point of view, unable to conceive of any alternative, and almost dumbstruck when confronted with a reality that stubbornly refuses to conform to their vision of the world (as when Mrs. Miller comes to the principal's office). Shanley set out to write a drama in which that kind of certainty would be tested, but he didn't want to make it easy; so he put that certainty in the service of a noble cause. I think he created one of the great plays of American literature. I'm just not sure what to make of the film version.
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#6 of 32 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted December 31 2008 - 05:14 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Reuben
Patrick, in light of your review, what did you think of Viola Davis as the boy's mother? For me, in both the play and the movie, that character's appearance midway through is like a punch in the gut. I've always admired Davis, but this may be the finest work I've ever seen her do. (It's a great part; the actress who did it on Broadway won the Tony.)

Viola Davis was very strong, especially when she drops her bombshell on Sister Aloysius w/r/t Donald's nature, one that repulsed Donald's father.

The film ends up feeling like a game of hold'em poker where the players have to go by circumstantial evidence to come to some conclusion that guides their actions. Sometimes the gut reaction is bolstered by what has transpired, while those with tunnel vision discount other probabilities.

I've never seen the play, so I can only go by what was on the screen, so for me, some of the fleshing out of the school-related daily events doesn't quite provide any additional foundation to the main thrust of the film's thesis on doubt and certainty. So it felt like padding to me, especially when you can kind of tell what was in the play, and what was added for its cinematic treatment.
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#7 of 32 OFFLINE   Bryan Beckman

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Posted January 02 2009 - 03:56 PM

My wife and I saw this film last night and enjoyed it quite a bit. I appreciate Michael's comments regarding the play, which neither of us have seen.

One of the points we discussed was in regards to Donald's "nature," which I didn't think was unambiguously defined. In my mind it could either be homosexuality or masturbation, or maybe even something else about Donald that disgusts his father enough to beat him regularly. There seems to be a lot of agreement here that Donald was homosexual; was there a line we missed?

Something else we were puzzling out was the nature of Father Flynn's misdeeds at his former parish. That he became frightened when Sister Aloysius mentioned speaking with a nun there (as opposed to the pastor, but it was all a fabrication by Aloysius anyway) led us to wonder if he had been involved with one of the sisters there. If so, that could be evidence in his favor, unless he was bisexual.

I thought the film was paced impeccably well, and couldn't believe it was over when the credits rolled. It was perhaps the quickest 105 minutes of my life.
 

#8 of 32 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted January 03 2009 - 01:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Beckman
One of the points we discussed was in regards to Donald's "nature," which I didn't think was unambiguously defined.
I completely agree. It could be nothing more than a bookish, introverted personality. This was, after all, an era before Bill Gates, so that being a nerd was not yet a legitimate option. Mr. Miller may well have considered Donald a "sissy" for no reason other than not being a jock.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Beckman
Something else we were puzzling out was the nature of Father Flynn's misdeeds at his former parish.
My wife and I have been arguing about this since we saw the play. She's with Sister Aloysius and thinks that's Flynn's resignation is a confession of misdeeds with children at his prior post. But after watching how aggressively Father Flynn pushes the kinder, gentler Catholic Church, you have to wonder whether Sister Aloysius was the first old-school figure he crossed. It's just as possible that he ran into similar hostility at a previous post, and the monsignor reassigned him for a fresh start.

Of course, we as an audience can't help but bring our knowledge of the many scandals that subsequently affected the American Catholic Church due to problem priests being transferred instead of disciplined (or arrested). But suspicions aren't knowledge, which is precisely the point.
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#9 of 32 OFFLINE   Patrick Sun

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Posted January 03 2009 - 05:18 AM

Plus, the film goes and adds the scene of a "good ol' boy" fraternity feel amongst the male clergy in their dinner scene, immediately contrasted with the stern dinner amongst the nuns. But Sister Aloysius also has her own "good ol' girl" networking in place by looking after the old nun who was going blind. She meant well, and wasn't above skirting the rules for the old nun.
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#10 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff_Standley

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Posted January 30 2009 - 09:33 AM

Finally got to see the movie last night and loved every minute of it.
About half way through the movie I realized, and was hoping, that the movie itself was probably not going to be giving you all of the details in favor of one side or the other, to make you think about and try to figure it our for yourselves, and I'm glad they did. The movie experience is so much better for it too. It really makes you think and question everything you saw, very clever on the writers part for sure.

Meryl Streep is absolutely incredible in this, as was Hoffman and Adams, but Streep really shines for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Reuben
My wife and I have been arguing about this since we saw the play. She's with Sister Aloysius and thinks that's Flynn's resignation is a confession of misdeeds with children at his prior post. But after watching how aggressively Father Flynn pushes the kinder, gentler Catholic Church, you have to wonder whether Sister Aloysius was the first old-school figure he crossed. It's just as possible that he ran into similar hostility at a previous post, and the monsignor reassigned him for a fresh start.

My wife and I were having the same discussion, she thought it was a confession too, I wasn't to sure.
I'm not sure what to think about his resignation though, he resigned for a reason and the thought of sister
Aloysius asking more about why really made him hesitate.
After reading through the posts I think I'm in agreement that father Flynn may have been gay himself, and that's why he didn't care to push into his past too far. He did mention that he couldn't answer certain things but he was unclear about why. Father Flynn obviously loved his work and the children he served, but didn't want to bring on himself or the church by uncovering something. I love it because it could so easily go either way.
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#11 of 32 OFFLINE   Joe Karlosi

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Posted February 01 2009 - 11:36 AM

SPOILERS BELOW!!







Saw it today and thought it was outstanding, and the performances from Hoffman and Streep were just riveting.

I liked that everything was kept ambiguous, but I could have sworn that at one time Father Flynn more or less admits wrongdoing, when he pleads something to the Sister about "please have compassion". I hope I'm misreading that, because I enjoyed it better as thinking nothing happened, and that Streep was just forcing the priest out because of her own stubborn convictions.

What about the very last scene in the film? That was really powerful. what do you think the Sister was crying"doubt" over? That she may have misjudged Father Flynn, or that she now dates her own faith, that such things could occur? I think that's what's so strong about the film, the way it can be interpreted any which way.

Also, it had never occurred to me that the Father could have been gay too, which might be why he was asking for "compassion," and why he didn't want his past explored. I just discovered this possibility through these posts, so that's also very plausible.

#12 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff_Standley

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Posted February 01 2009 - 06:13 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Karlosi
SPOILERS BELOW!!







Saw it today and thought it was outstanding, and the performances from Hoffman and Streep were just riveting.

I liked that everything was kept ambiguous, but I could have sworn that at one time Father Flynn more or less admits wrongdoing, when he pleads something to the Sister about "please have compassion". I hope I'm misreading that, because I enjoyed it better as thinking nothing happened, and that Streep was just forcing the priest out because of her own stubborn convictions.

What about the very last scene in the film? That was really powerful. what do you think the Sister was crying"doubt" over? That she may have misjudged Father Flynn, or that she now dates her own faith, that such things could occur? I think that's what's so strong about the film, the way it can be interpreted any which way.

Also, it had never occurred to me that the Father could have been gay too, which might be why he was asking for "compassion," and why he didn't want his past explored. I just discovered this possibility through these posts, so that's also very plausible.

I think that's exactly what makes this movie so brilliant, you just don't know the truth.
It's the thoughts of what really did happen, what could have happened, and what do Father Flynn and sister Aloysius mean by "have compassion" and "I have doubts". It really makes the movie spin in all directions and you just don't know where to stop in your own belief of what happened.

Father Flynn was definitely afraid of something from his past parish making it's way to his current parish that might destroy his reputation. Maybe he was covering something up, or maybe he knew there was a past nun who would make trouble for him much like sister Aloysius.
It's not too far of a stretch to imagine that his idea of creating a kinder and more gentle school may have rubbed some of the old school nuns the wrong way in the past as well. That type of behavior may have come across the wrong way to others and not just sister Aloysius, and that may have been why he said basically too just drop the investigation and I'll move on with out trouble.

The other thing that really makes me think Father Flynn might of been gay is that the other blond head kid in school can't stand Father Flynn. He was the one that sister Aloysius saw him grab by the arm and the kid pulled away. The kid showed his dislike of father Flynn, but we never know why. Was he gay and the kid knew it? Did he try something on the young boy, or was he just overly friendly and the kid thought it was weird? It really leaves it open which is great.
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#13 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff Adkins

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Posted February 04 2009 - 08:29 AM

Can someone tell me if there was some significance to the several references to PSH's long fingernails? Was this supposed to be a clue that he was homosexual or just that he didn't go along with Sister Aloysius' strict grooming rules?

#14 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff_Standley

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Posted February 04 2009 - 09:22 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Adkins
Can someone tell me if there was some significance to the several references to PSH's long fingernails? Was this supposed to be a clue that he was homosexual or just that he didn't go along with Sister Aloysius' strict grooming rules?

I was a little lost on that one as well.
The only thought I could come up with was that the long fingernails were just one of the little rules that he could bend and stray away from the strict old school ways. He can't flip his jacket inside out Fresh Prince style so maybe he thought that was kind of a harmless stance against the system. Maybe?
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#15 of 32 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted February 04 2009 - 09:38 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Adkins
Can someone tell me if there was some significance to the several references to PSH's long fingernails? Was this supposed to be a clue that he was homosexual or just that he didn't go along with Sister Aloysius' strict grooming rules?
I think it's just the latter. Remember, this was an era of much greater conformity in matters of appearance and grooming, and all the more so in institutions like St. Nicholas.
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#16 of 32 OFFLINE   Allen Hirsch

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Posted February 04 2009 - 10:51 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Karlosi
SPOILERS BELOW!!







Saw it today and thought it was outstanding, and the performances from Hoffman and Streep were just riveting.

I liked that everything was kept ambiguous, but I could have sworn that at one time Father Flynn more or less admits wrongdoing, when he pleads something to the Sister about "please have compassion". I hope I'm misreading that, because I enjoyed it better as thinking nothing happened, and that Streep was just forcing the priest out because of her own stubborn convictions.

What about the very last scene in the film? That was really powerful. what do you think the Sister was crying"doubt" over? That she may have misjudged Father Flynn, or that she now dates her own faith, that such things could occur? I think that's what's so strong about the film, the way it can be interpreted any which way.

Also, it had never occurred to me that the Father could have been gay too, which might be why he was asking for "compassion," and why he didn't want his past explored. I just discovered this possibility through these posts, so that's also very plausible.

At first, I thought "how odd, NOW she has doubts?" It seemed, at first blush, completely out of her character. But the more I thought about it, I liked the added ambiguity that scene gave to her character and the whole film.

It did make me wonder, does she doubt her certainty only about the priest's guilt, or does she now doubt her faith and maybe even the whole Catholic church, b/c now she sees he got promoted and has even more "access" to kids in his new parish, so what did she actually accomplish?
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#17 of 32 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted February 04 2009 - 11:26 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen Hirsch
or does she now doubt her faith and maybe even the whole Catholic church, b/c now she sees he got promoted and has even more "access" to kids in his new parish, so what did she actually accomplish?
A variation would be that she doubts whether it was a wise thing to let her own certainty dictate her actions. Everyone might have been better off if she'd left it alone, as Mrs. Miller begged her to do.
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#18 of 32 OFFLINE   Jon_Are

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Posted February 15 2009 - 04:17 AM

For the sake of argument, assume that Fr. Flynn was completely innocent of any wrongdoing with regard to Donald Miller. Now, he's at his new parish, and his personality runs afoul of another school principal/nun. She has no evidence, just a gut feeling that something is wrong. She confronts Fr. Flynn, who denies everything. She then states she spoke with a sister at his previous assignment (this would have been Sr. Aloysius). You can see how, even though he has done nothing improper, Fr. Flynn would panic at this point.

My point is, an innocent man can be made to feel very uncomfortable - and appear very guilty - under certain circumstances.

That said, did you notice the smirk on the face of William London (the tall blond boy) when Fr. was saying goodbye to the parish?

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#19 of 32 OFFLINE   buttmunker

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Posted April 13 2009 - 04:04 AM

Noticing how they introduced the boys of the film - the first scene, we get introduced not to the black student Donald Miller, but to "Jimmy" getting awoken by his mother. Jimmy, like William London, appear to be emotionally affected to some degree by Father Flynn. However, the point is Donald, and we hardly see any scenes with him - other than getting mistreated by other students (London) or having innocent talks with the Father.

I was expecting to see something personal with Donald - I almost expected to see Donald's father at mass, but they only showed his mother.

Great film - truly enjoyed it. London's strange expression during the Father's final mass was exceptional.

I felt bad for Donald. Seemed like a nice kid, getting slowly crunched by life's mentors - including his cruel father, and a possibly even crueler Father.
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#20 of 32 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted April 14 2009 - 04:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Allen Hirsch
At first, I thought "how odd, NOW she has doubts?" It seemed, at first blush, completely out of her character. But the more I thought about it, I liked the added ambiguity that scene gave to her character and the whole film.

It did make me wonder, does she doubt her certainty only about the priest's guilt, or does she now doubt her faith and maybe even the whole Catholic church, b/c now she sees he got promoted and has even more "access" to kids in his new parish, so what did she actually accomplish?

I also thought the "I have doubt" scene seemed strange, largely because I felt Flynn's fear over Aloysius's (non-existent) phone call and subsequent resignation offered pretty strong indications of his guilt.

I hadn't considered the possibility Aloysius is doubting her faith, not Flynn's guily - and I think that idea makes a hunka-buncha more sense. She's been brought up to believe in a very black and white world in which religious figures are always good and protective of their flock - and then she meets some dude who's diddling the 12-year-olds. That'd mess with your head!
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