With bristling topicality, a ritzy cast and Roger Deakins’ gracefully bleak cinematography, John Patrick Shanley’s movie is prime Oscar bait. In this callow but entertaining adaptation of his 2005 play, provocation passes for complexity. A timid, young Sister James (Amy Adams), unnerved by what looks like unusually close contact between a well-liked priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and a school’s first black pupil, reports her misgivings to the school principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). Shanley throws in some clues to enlarge our perceptions of nun and priest, but Doubt is only marginally about moral uncertainty, which he confuses with a preposterous moral relativism. It’s more about the sins of a nosy old biddy pulling out the stops while going through the official channels of a male-dominated Catholic Church. I was left wishing that there had been more vigilant old nuns around like Sister Aloysius to shield Catholic children from the predators within.

Categories: Movies