(a “confess and resign” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
In my most humbled and “confessed” opinion, the play, DOUBT (2004), by John Patrick Shanley, is the best American play of the 21st century. I “resign” myself to review the film made in 2008 of the same title. As you can see, only 4 years elapsed from the writing of this play to the directing of this film. This is because DOUBT is a story that had to be desperately spread far and wide as only the cinema could do. The story is one that creates not only doubts about a priest’s molestation of a black boy but also doubts about our own faith. Yes, that is a far-and-wide dilemma.
DOUBT is something of a miracle, ironically enough, of a play-turned-into-a-film, in that it provides hardly any answers to the many questions it poses. I just love it when a play or film or any form of entertainment doesn’t “spoon feed” the observer. The observer is smart enough to answer all these deeper-soul questions him- or herself and if he or she is not able to answer them, oh well, so be it. There are 4 characters central to the story: Sister Aloysius, Father Flynn, Sister James, and Mrs. Miller. The film also has 4 actors, respectively, at the top of their game: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. If I tell you these 4 actors set off fireworks more colorful and more explosive than the 4th (haha!) of July, that would be a huge understatement. And what I also love about this film is that the story is basic, i.e., a priest is suspected of child molestation and a sister (or two) tries to get to the bottom of it. What is not basic AT ALL about DOUBT is that the characters’ emotions are complex and colorful, the eventual exploration and dissection of the same is devastating, and not one of the 4 characters is unaltered, for the better or for the worse, by the film’s end. Did the priest molest the child a sister (or two) suspected? Hell if I know….and glad as hell that I don’t!
Why are most of the best characters in plays and films women characters? I ask this because I am a man, and yet I desire to act these female characters because the emotions are all there in black and white (for a nun) and yet the colors are incredibly intense! I tend to buck the system of status quo in my artistry and, in this case, I have done acting monologues of Sister Aloysius because they were just too darn juicy to pass up as an actor. It would stand to reason that I would want to do a monologue of Father Flynn and while his role is also pretty juicy, it just doesn’t have the sweetness (nor the sour, in this case) of Sister Aloysuis. I’m gonna get pretty bold here and allow you to view an acting monologue of Sister Aloysuis I did that I filmed (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPJ2bO19AHg). You can judge for yourself why that particular monologue was just way too good (and juicy) for me to pass up as a male actor. Whatever you do or judge, please do NOT compare this monologue to the one Meryl Streep did in the film. I will most definitely “fall short of the glory” (Romans 3:23) of Meryl Streep!😉
Thank God the playwright Shanley adapted the film’s screenplay from his play. I cannot imagine his play in the hands of a different screenwriter. The lines in this play/film are some of the best lines I have ever encountered in any kind of artistry. They put my own writing to shame and make me seriously doubt (haha) if I’m even a “decent” writer. I could not possibly list them all in this review but because this play/film is a “cat and mouse” parable, I can’t get way without the scene where a nun has a cat in her hands who killed a mouse, and she says to Sister Aloysuis and Sister James, “it takes a cat.” Sister Aloysuis couldn’t let that nun get away with that line without her saying, “yes….it does.” The black (and white) cat IS Sister Aloysuis.🐱👤 The black (and white) mouse IS Father Flynn 🐭
Once again, I am NOT reviewing this film for the textbook film review the reader might typically encounter. I don’t want to “spoon feed” you in that regard, because I hope you will read the play and/or watch the film yourself and draw your own conclusions. What I attempted to do here was to express that DOUBT is the best American play of the 21st century, the film based off the play is the best film when it comes to providing no easy (if any) answers, and to express my usual non-status quo way of living (and acting). I wanted to let the reader know with this review that boxed-in corners are for boxing rings, not for living (and acting). And speaking of “corners” and “boxing rings,” this is actually the perfect analogy for this play/film, because the 4 characters are all in their respectable corners in a boxing ring and have to leave these corners to come out fighting. And fighting is exactly what they do! They “beat each other up” with their suspicions, fabrications, and, yes, doubts! They tear each other up and are forever altered in the “fight” for their dignity, respect, and pursuit of all things true. It’s most sad that in the pursuit of living, we don’t always get the truth, but we are guaranteed the doubts. It’s what we do with these doubts that will forever alter us, for the better or for the worse. BOTH the play AND the film of DOUBT have forever altered me as BOTH a human AND an actor for the better, and I “confess and resign” myself to just that.