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Streep Lays It On Pretty Thick In “Doubt”

PhotobucketThere is no debate that Meryl Streep is one of the finest actresses to ever live. She’s been showered with awards and praise for over 20 years. She is about to be showered with praise for her role as Sister Aloysius in “Doubt”. I’m not so sure that it is deserved as, at times, Streep is comically over the top as an over-bearing, scary, and neo-conservative nun.

I’ll get this out of the way right now: I’m Catholic. I’m not a devout, weekly church going Catholic or anything, but I do buy what the religion is selling…most of the time. While I am aware that there are priests with serious issues, over-bearing nuns, and even over idealistic followers of the religion, it’s tough to swallow watching every stereotype play out over a two hour movie.

The story focuses on three members of a New York City parish in 1964. The new priest, Father Flynn (Hoffman), is a progressive thinker whose beliefs come into immediate conflict with the school principal, Sister Aloysius (Streep). The third member is the kind, sweet, and naive Sister James (Amy Adams), who goes to Sister Aloysius with the news that Father Flynn has taken special interest in the first black student at their school. At one point, the student meets privately with Father Flynn in the rectory. Sister Aloysius, for reasons that we never quite find out, immediately assumes that this interest is an inappropriate relationship with the child.

“Doubt” is really all about its performances and Streep overacts in Pacino-like “whoo-hah” fashion. There is only one scene that in which she is grounded in reality and she shares it with Viola Davis as the black child’s mother. Davis dominates her scene with Streep, which in this movie is tough to pull off. The rest of the time, it’s as if Streep refused to take a backseat to Hoffman. In every scene with him, Streep chews up every word and spews it out with an “I’m a dramatic actress” flair. One could actually feel badly for poor Amy Adams, who gets swallowed up like Ahab in her scenes with Streep.

This film was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, who also wrote the stage version. He last directed “Joe Versus The Volcano” and, while “Doubt” is a vast improvement, he may be best served staying out from behind the camera. Shanley tried to jazz up a script that looks and sounds like it would be best served on a stage. For some reason, a stage play can stand to be overly dramatic because of the theater setting. When you see overacting in a movie, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

WonderFor a movie with such a controversial subject, there really isn’t anything to be learned from it. In the end, we are left wondering what really happened and who was right and who was wrong. I don’t need every movie to wrap everything up with a bow in the end, but some resolution would be nice. As it stands, the only thing you going away knowing for sure is that Sister Aloysius sure is a meanie.

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  1. June 24, 2009 at 2:00 AM

    I swear this movie looks so boring

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