Saturday, February 07, 2009

Meryl Streep, in Doubt
approximately 48 minutes and 56 seconds
49.5% of the film

The film

Set in 1964, Doubt centers on a nun who confronts a priest after suspecting him of abusing a black student.

It’s a fabulous film that I really enjoyed; not in a sadistic way, but because the first 2 3rds of Doubt are very intense. Those two hours just flew bye. As always, Meryl is the carrying force of the film, giving here a very powerful Miranda Priestly type of performance. The other 3 actors (PS Hoffman, Amy & Viola Davis) do a great supporting job, the screenplay is sharp, perfectly balanced, the direction subtle and (if there would’ve been any justice) Oscar worthy. It is an intense cast driven film that would probably make my Top 5 of 2008, definitely a Top 10. A must see.

Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier

It’s kind of normal for the “greatest living actress” to get the juiciest parts available out there. This is Meryl’s 15th Oscar nomination and she hasn’t won in 26 years. Before the nominations were announced this year, this was one of the easiest to predict; a lock.

It’s not an easy role to play. Sister Aloysius is cold, tough, rigid, always certain in her beliefs and having, what we imagine it to be, an unstoppable desire to bring the truth to light. That is a simple presentation of the character. The story is built so that the viewer would think that everything seems to fit: Sister Aloysius dislikes Father Flynn and warns the other nuns to keep an eye on the school, looking for unusual behavior; then, news comes to her ears (Amy Adams is deliciously brilliant as the young naïve nun) that something unholy could be happening between Father Flynn & his protégé, the only black kid in school. Doubt should arise, but Meryl’s character is certain that her instinct is not wrong. And her only purpose is now to bring Father Flynn down. It’s a bit of a cat and mouse game.

Meryl takes on the character with a great sense of hard drama, but also with a touch of humor. To me, Sister Aloysius is not just a character, but a human being, and Meryl is to be “blamed” because of a small look, a rolling of eyes, a smile, these are all simple gestures that the actress uses to portray her, not just through her words, but also through her gestures, her facial expression.

Sister Aloysius is not an old nun; she’s the most alert character and represents the dynamic force of the film. Her passion to do things her way enlightens her. She might seem to be a dislikeable character, but I actually ended up loving her, because she is so driven, so intense, her certainty convinces me, I even embraced her preference for a strict education and her despise for ballpoint pens. And it’s all to Meryl’s credit, because she seems to know the character so well, and she’s so convinced that Sister Aloysius is right that she uses of her tics and tactics to show us that.

This is also a performance which succeeds depending on writing and the way the character’s being filmed. Because there are a lot of close-ups, Meryl takes advantage of that: she knows when her eyes must be teary, when she must look angry, or understanding, when to give a look of superiority or when to lighten up, changing the rhythm of a scene.

The lack of makeup is also very relevant to the character and performance. There are no tricks, just the highly expressive face of the actress. Her lines are fabulous (obviously, cause it’s based on a TONY winning play). You will lose!, she threatens Father Flynn.

From the Brooklyn accent, to the powerful voice and to the wide range of emotions, Meryl’s performance is a true success, the key element of the film and a force of nature. It’s not too much, it’s not overacting. Sister Aloysius is cunning, witty, smart, has a great instinct and (up until the ending) she’s always convinced of her beliefs. She’s seen it before, she has experience, and she knows it all. And you know what’s funny: you believe her!

This is probably one of the best Meryl Streep performances of the last 20 years. I easily give her . Come Oscar night, it’s gonna be Meryl vs. Kate Winslet, with Kate as a favorite. I really really hope Meryl might give us the surprise of winning. Quality wise, she kills the competition.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is definitely, for me, the best performance Meryl Streep has ever given, I even place it above Sophie's Choice. I think she's just perfect as a nun and she does everything right with every emotion and she balances the toughness of her character with the fun (not too much)side of her. This was my pick for that year, but Kate Winslet was due an Oscar and she gave a very good perfomance in The Reader.