Doubt (2008) Film Review

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New York, 1964. Sister James (Amy Adams) is a young nun at a Catholic school which is ruled over by the tyrannical principal, Sister Beauvier (Meryl Streep). When Sister Beauvier suspects untoward behaviour from the priest Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), she will stop at nothing to ensure his demise.

It’s interesting to watching this film around the same time as watching Atonement. Atonement has a young girl who suspects the worst from a series of events leading to the ruination of several people’s lives. Doubt is almost the opposite, with another young (although a fair bit older) woman being led to certain conclusions by another.

Molestation by priests and other people in positions of authority keeps being revealed, as is the cover-up by some institutions. This film looks at the issue in a different way; if you suspected this behaviour but have no evidence, what can you do? Is it better to wait for evidence knowing that children may be suffering in the meantime? Or can you ruin a man’s reputation and career on the whisper of fact?

The film doesn’t attempt to arrive at an answer to this conundrum, but follows the three main characters as they find their own way through. It is a very, very good film; emotional without being hysterical, and it really leaves you questioning these huge issues. Then again, as is typical with the cover-up of the institution, it’s not as though the priest is ostracised or jailed for his suspected crime. Just moved on to another area. Ah, institutions like the church. How cross you make me.

Doubt was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Merryl Streep), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Amy Adams), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role  (Viola Davis) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

The Master (2012) Film Review

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Freddy Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) returns from war a broken and deeply alcoholic man. He is violent, finds it hard to hold down a job, and is surprised one day to wake up on a boat with a group called ‘The Cause’. This is a cult-like religion headed by ‘The Master’, Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a charismatic leader who believes that current issues in life can be solved through processing past lives and experiences. Despite the belief of much of Dodd’s family, including his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) that Quell is not committed to the cause and is instead the source of many problems, The Master embraces him as a subject.

I found this a hard film to watch because Phoenix’s portrayal of Quell is so raw and aggressive, and there is the sense that there is no hope for the man. Director Paul Thomas Anderson tells epic stories laced with tragedy – including Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood. I’m going to have to revisit There Will Be Blood, which bored me to tears. I feel I must have missed something.

Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, a BAFTA for Leading Actor and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, a BAFTA for Supporting Actor and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Amy Adams was nominated for an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, a BAFTA for Supporting Actress and a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a  Supporting Role in a Motion Picture – Drama.

Paul Thomas Anderson was nominated for a BAFTA for Original Screenplay

Talledega Nights – The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) Film Review

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Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is the top NASCAR driver, rising to fame with the assistance of his wingman, Cal Naughton Jnr (John C Reilly). But then, after his first, fairly uneventful accident, he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder and cannot drive. His wife leaves him for his best friend, and it is only the assistance of his absent father, Reese Bobby (Gary Cole) that he can get back on track.

This is one of those dumb Will Ferrell/John C Reilly films. Heaps of people love these films. Not me. I found it such a yawn fest. The characters are so ridiculous that there is no empathy for them. Possibly, they would make good characters for a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch, but a whole film? Whatever.