Blu-Ray Review: ‘Doubt’ Spotlights Spectacular Performances in HD

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HollywoodChicago.com Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.0/5.0

CHICAGO – The history of films to score four acting Oscar nominations would make for a very short list. And yet most critics knew the rare set of nods was inevitable when they saw the quartet of talent on display in John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt”. Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis shine in “Doubt,” now available on Blu-Ray.

“Doubt” is not a perfect film. Some of the overt symbolism (the burned-out bulb, the changing winds) is a little too on-the-nose and the piece doesn’t quite break free from its theatrical roots to feel like much more than a filmed play, but what a play. This is an acting powerhouse, a dialogue-driven examination of faith that includes some of the best performances of 2008.

Doubt was released on Blu-Ray on April 7th, 2009.
Doubt was released on Blu-Ray on April 7th, 2009.
Photo credit: Buena Vista

Essentially, “Doubt” is a three-character show - Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Sister James (Amy Adams). Sister A. finds herself up against the consistently changing tides of her Bronx Catholic school in the mid-’60s.

Doubt was released on Blu-Ray on April 7th, 2009.
Doubt was released on Blu-Ray on April 7th, 2009.
Photo credit: Buena Vista

Father Flynn represents change and progress with his more laid back and lenient style with the students. It immediately makes Sister A. suspicious and those suspicions quickly turn into something more serious when one of the Father’s students, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), comes back from a meeting with Flynn acting unusually.

The uncertain younger sister feeds the elder’s doubts when she sees the Father placing Donald’s undershirt back in his locker and a battle of will between Flynn and Beauvier begins. The Father is unwavering in his denial of any wrongdoing, claiming that all his actions with Miller were to support a troubled child. Sister A. not only doesn’t believe Father Flynn but seems like a woman who would never admit if she did. Once she believes in something, she does with all her heart.

“Doubt” is a character piece with theme of faith, sin, change, and, of course, doubt. The exchanges between Steep, Hoffman, Adams, and Davis (who plays the young boy’s mother in two of the most powerful scenes of last year) are riveting. History will recognize that Kate Winslet may have won what was essentially a lifetime achievement award for “The Reader” but that Streep was more deserving for her work here. Many thought she might pull the upset and win her third Oscar.

And no one would have been surprised if Amy Adams or Viola Davis had walked off with an Oscar as well. (Hoffman’s very good but he should have been eligible for lead, not supporting, and in the latter category he never stood a chance against Heath Ledger.)

Doubt was released on Blu-Ray on April 7th, 2009.
Doubt was released on Blu-Ray on April 7th, 2009.
Photo credit: Buena Vista

“Doubt” is well-worth the rental on Blu-Ray just for one of these four excellent performances, much less the sum of the acting parts. This may be Streep and Hoffman’s show, but Adams and Davis are nearly as good. This is the kind of old-fashioned, acting showcase that they don’t make that often any more. It leaves you in awe of the performances, even if the direction and writing may not completely match them.

“Doubt” is presented in 1080p high definition with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and has been given an English 5.1 DTS-HD track and a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Miramax/Disney always produces quality video transfers and “Doubt” is no exception. This is not the kind of material that really displays the true potential of HD but the video and audio are never distracting.

The special features are not extensive but are appropriately detailed for a non-technical film that really kind of speaks for itself. The best special feature is the commentary by writer/director Shanley. No one knows this material better than the man who wrote the play and adapted/directed the film. It’s fantastic that he decided to take the time to discuss it.

The rest of the special features make up a pretty standard quartet of featurettes entitled “Doubt: From Stage to Screen,” “Scoring Doubt,” “The Cast of Doubt,” and “The Sisters of Charity”. No one’s coming to a Blu-Ray like “Doubt” looking for a gag reel or games to play, so a commentary and four featurettes is about what you’d expect.

‘Doubt’ is released by Miramax/Buena Vista Home Entertainment and stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. It was written and directed by John Patrick Shanley. It was released on April 7th, 2009. It is rated PG-13.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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