By: Alex Phuong (Two Beers) –
Some of the greatest films of all time are adaptations of famous stage plays. Examples include Death of a Salesman (1951), A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Part of the appeal of such plays is the fact that they really are entertaining. At the same time, though, playwrights actually write these plays in order to address social issues and sometimes even controversial subject matter. That is probably why John Patrick Shanley had the audacity to adapt his own award-winning play (as well as direct) when he made the film version of Doubt (2008), which won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play after it was first performed in 2004.
Without a doubt, the acting in this film is phenomenal (pun intended). Amy Adams gave an Oscar-worthy performance as an innocent nun caught in a scandal shortly after playing the naive princess Giselle in Disney’s Enchanted (2007). Viola Davis was so wonderful in only a few brief scenes that she earned her first Academy Award nomination (which was a fact that Eva Marie Saint acknowledged during the Oscar award ceremony in 2009). Philip Seymour Hoffman had to play the difficult and demanding role of a priest accused of a heinous crime, and Meryl Streep was being Meryl Streep (but that is supposed to be a compliment). All four of these performers definitely deserved their Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for starring in this modern classic. The fact that none of them won might be attributed to the fact that the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Academy have their own taste in terms of what would be deemed an awards-worthy performance. Nevertheless, this film is a great example of an ensemble team utilizing their artistic talents to bring a highly controversial play to the silver screen.
With that said, part of the criticism of this film comes from the fact that Doubt directly deals with topics that not a lot of people would be willing to discuss. Some of the scenes are also very lengthy (10-15 minutes each), and all that happens are intense arguments and discussions. The acting within the entire film is astonishing, of course, but that might be why this film was not a major awards winner nor a major success at the box office during its original release in 2008-2009. Even with such criticism, Doubt is still a very bold film that dares to ask serious questions without delivering any easy answers.
This film is tough to watch, but it still features some of the greatest performances ever captured on film. There is also an interesting parallel between Doubt and the 2015 “Best Picture” winner Spotlight because of the mature themes explored in both of these highly acclaimed films. Doubt might have left the award ceremonies empty-handed, but it is still one of the most riveting and thrilling films ever made.
Doubt (2008) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Meryl Streep does anything strict
Take a Drink: for every lengthy scene that might be hard to watch
Do Not Be Sober: whenever there is any shouting or raised voices
And Cheers: for witnessing an ensemble team effort when it comes to bringing a controversial play to life on-screen