January 6, 2009

Weekend in Reviews

Miss me?

I took a 10 day vacation to lay around the house in my pajamas and watch TV on DVD marathons. But I also watched two movies in there so at least I have something to review now that I'm back.

Doubt - Wow did I like this movie a lot. I had heard very little about the film before seeing it. I knew who was in it and that it was about nuns and priests and I'd seen a rave from Entertainment Weekly for Viola Davis (totally deserved by the way) but other than that, I had no expectations going in which I think might be part of the reason I liked it so much. The story is that of a catholic school in New York City in the mid-sixties where two nuns, sisters Aloysius and James (Meryl Streep and Amy Adams respectively), believe that the parish priest, Father Flynn (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), has been sexually abusing the only black student in the school. One of the things that I liked most about the film was it's dedication to ambiguity. We never really know for sure who is right and who is wrong - and no one ever comes right out and says what they think Father Flynn is doing, it being much too distasteful to articulate in 1964...especially for a nun. But all of that adds to the authenticity and power of the story. EW was spot on with their rave for Viola Davis whose part in the film was much too brief but definitely extraordinary, the screenplay and direction by John Patrick Shanley are both sparsely affecting, Philip Seymour Hoffman turns in his usual work which is to say he's utterly believable as a priest of questionable moral fiber who creeps me out in a way that I can't ever quite put my finger on. Amy Adams also does her typically wonderful best as the quiet, idealistic, sweet and frightened Sister James and Meryl Streep is truly fantastic as the scary, stern, wholly sympathetic principal Sister Aloysius.

Marley & Me - Having read and enjoyed the book I can say that the movie was not in anyway a disappointment. It sticks pretty close to the story in the book changing some fairly small details (though why, I can't really figure out), adding a character that was really unnecessary to the story and over-shortening at least one crucial scene from the book but essentially conveying the entirety of the story with the same warmth and genuine affection that John Grogan did in his memoir about the dog that made a huge impact on the lives of his entire family. I've got a lump in my throat just talking about it. I guess most people who didn't read the book went into the movie expecting a straight-up family comedy about a wacky dog and the hijinks he gets into. There is some of that. Marley is a comical dog as most dogs are - he goes ape-shit when it thunders and he chews anything that doesn't move and he wreaks havoc and he terrorizes dog sitters. But he's also a loving dog who provides the first hanky moment of the book and movie by simply laying his head sweetly on the knee of a distraught Jenny when she needs it the most. He is a family dog who plays with and protects the children. He's PART of the family and when he passes at the end it is horribly sad to watch the Grogan family say goodbye to someone they loved and who loved them so much. Anyone who has ever had a pet will cry like crazy at this movie and anyone who doesn't, may just be cold and dead inside. Either way, it's a good movie and a slightly better book.

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