DOUBT with Meryl Streep is a surprise Blockbuster!

Last night I attended a screening of the new movie DOUBT, starring acting heavyweights Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. OH MY GOD…what a great film! It still hasn’t been released until later this month...this screening was for Screen Actors Guild members and included a Q&A following the film with the movie's screenwriter AND director John Patrick Shanley (MOONSTRUCK) and his friend, fellow director Norman Jewison. I saw the Shanley play on Broadway several years ago starring Cherry Jones in the Streep role and the story has been largely re-written, according to Shanley, “opened up” and re-adapted for the screen. The play is set in a Catholic parish church and school in the Bronx circa 1964.
Hoffman plays the priest Father Flynn and Meryl Streep is the feisty, elderly head nun, Sister Aloysius, who strongly accuses the priest of improper conduct (pedophilia?) when he be-friends a 12 year old black boy, who stands out in the all-white school. But she still has some “doubts”, hence the title. Amy Adams (so wonderful last year as a Disney princess in ENCHANTED), plays the young nun, Sister James, who sees the good in everybody and really doesn’t want to believe such things are possible in the priest.
The movie is fast-paced and it’s absolutely thrilling to watch the two pros Hoffman and Streep joust verbally back-and-forth. Oscars will be nominated all around, including a supporting Oscar nomination for Viola Davis, as the boy’s mother. Tears running down her face, her performance is superb as a woman who only wants the best for her little boy, whom she already suspects is growing up to be a gay man.
In the Q&A afterword, Shanley mentioned that when he was in high school, a well-known gay teacher had mentored him, recognizing his writing abilities early on. Shanley said there were no sexual overtures, and he wasn’t even aware until years later what was happening, but he has come to realize that many people have told him since then that they have made this sort of “bargain” with an older, more experienced person.
Don’t miss this film…it’s only 95 minutes long and every minute is riveting. One of the best films of this year, 2008.
Every time I see a Streep movie, not only do I marvel at her performances and her ability to completely assume different identities, I also recall meeting her years ago when I was a high school kid in New York visiting friends. Meryl Streep was fresh out of Yale and was doing lots of theatre including musicals, because she was a talented coloratura soprano from the age of 13 who studied with the great coloratura opera coach Estelle Liebling (my friend’s teacher).
Grayson Hall was an actress who I knew thru friends and she was the leading lady in a Broadway show called Happy End, a three-act musical comedy by Kurt Weill, Elisabeth Hauptmann, and Bertolt Brecht which first opened in Berlin. It was playing in New York on W. 45th Street at the Martin Beck Theatre (now The Al Hirschfield) and on a hot summer night, I remember I sat in Grayson’s dressing room drinking coca cola and trying to cool off and meeting all her co-stars as they arrived and signed in on the backstage call board, including the young, unknown soprano ingĂ©nue: Meryl Streep!! I was completely blown away by her performance that night and then several years later when she began making movies, I remembered our evening in Grayson’s dressing room that hot summer night.
Then years later, I got a small (tiny) role in the film SHEDEVIL starring Roseanne Barr and Meryl Streep! It was nice being on the set with her, watching her professionalism up close and mentioning our long-ago meeting in Grayson’s dressing room, which she immediately recalled.


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