From stage to screen, MELODY NIXON asks if the film ‘Doubt’ lives up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

I WATCHED John Patrick Shanley’s screen version of his renowned play with much interest. I had been thoroughly captivated by the Circa rendition I’d seen performed back in February 2007, and wondered whether Shanley’s interpretation could add more depth to the script. Sadly, despite superb performances from a triumvirate of accomplished actors, Doubt the movie may fail to impress those familiar with the original script.

Shanley’s direction gives too much license to over-acting, particularly in the head to head battles between Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman seems to have the capacity for great nuance, performing equally as well in roles such as sensitive support nurse in Magnolia and businessman turned desparado in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. In Doubt he plays the moments of intensity and despair exceptionally well, yet in the moments of confrontation crumbles into a kind of rage that is uninspiring and even slightly boring.

The greatest problem is that Hoffman is just far too credible as Father Flynn. There is too little uncertainty and too much affability in his character for us to tread that fine line of doubt that makes the play so scintillating. Likewise, as the stern Sister Aloysius Meryl Streep’s character is cut very little slack. From the moment we are given an opening shot of her sinister face, glaring from behind a barred window in a wintry, concrete filled school yard, we are set up for an ending that is not as unexpected nor as heartbreaking as it should be.

Amy Adams in the support role of Sister James takes little time to make up her mind as to who she believes between the two martyrs; and so her conviction leads us down an easy path of faith as well. Adam’s acting is divine however; gentle and responsive to her character’s struggles. What a shame three such talented and genuinely engrossing actors are unable to retrieve Doubt from a forgivably yet destructively over-ambitious director’s hand, leaving us with a mere glimpse into what made Pulitzer Prize-winning play so worthy.