Some of the greatest scenes in film have been when two actors, both brilliant at what they do, get to have a conversation. This can be a simple, mundane conversation, a heavyweight meeting of power or a dark, intense, engrossing encounter. Alongside the brilliant “McDonalds” conversation Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta have in Pulp Fiction and the long anticipated cafe scene between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat comes Meryl Streep vs Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt.
There is scene, practically the end of the film, where the two actors confront each other. The accused trying to find out why his accuser is so determined to end his career. It is an engrossing, engaging and brilliant piece of movie making. Meryl Streep is fantastic as the nun who has a seemingly, unflappable belief in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s priest’s guilt. Both throw themselves into their face-off. Both go for broke when they try to fight their corner and the film becomes a different class because of it.
That isn’t to say the rest of the film isn’t fantastic as well. The film is a slow build to this scene, with the audience trying to work out for themselves if Philip Seymour Hoffman is guilty or not. I myself changed my mind about two or three times, often siding with Streep and then back with Hoffman and back to Streep again. It is called Doubt for a reason.
It isn’t just Hoffman and Streep that put in great performances though. Amy Adams is showing that she has many strings to her bow. She is perfectly cast as the nun that is supposed to represent the viewer. She flips between who she believes, trusting the “misunderstood” priest or siding with the “certain” head nun. Viola Davis (who I know very little about) is in one major scene in the film. It lasts about 5-8 minutes but her performance in this scene, as the Mother of a “supposedly” abused boy, earned her an Oscar nomination. The film is brilliantly acted.
It is an adaptation from stage play and this also shows. Scenes are long and intense and the film is better for it. It gives a great opportunity for the actors to really get their teeth into their roles and they all do. This film deserves to be recognised more and have to more people saying how perfectly made it is. It isn’t trying to be too over the top. The acting is subtle and performance pitch perfect. It isn’t a two and half hour epic but a very plain, understated, well acted film that tells a story that will leave you satisfied and puzzled to the very end.
Be warned though, there is a reason it is called Doubt and if you are looking for any easy answers to the difficult questions that are raised through the course of the film, you will be sadly disappointed.
Overall, acted perfectly, paced really well and left with a thought-provoking ending. It may not have won a host of awards or be at the top of anyones “must see” list but you could do a lot worst than give Streep and Hoffman a look, even if it just to see that “one scene” which is being sorely overlooked.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)