So Gran Torino and Frost/Nixon and now Doubt. If this series was a math equation, it would make a lot of sense. All three have been warmly regarded for the most part. Gran Torino was terrible. A paper thin plot layered with terrible dialogue and even worse acting. Frost/Nixon was a pretty straight forward biopic that was carried on the back of the powerful performances. Performances that made up for the failings of the plot. Doubt was the mix of the two. Supremely powerful performances, but not enough to take away from the inherent holes in the plot.
Let me reframe the discussion a bit. I don’t mean plot holes like you’d find in, say Bad Boys II. But it really seem like the entire plot of Doubt was just a single HUGE macguffin. It wasn’t the device that forwarded the plot, it was like the entire plot. And it really seemed to come out of nowhere. They try to explain it throughout (not the actual act that is the basis of the movie), but the genesis of the problem within the movie, and I just never bought it. And it was such a big piece of it that the entire movie, despite how excellent the actors were, I kept thinking “How did this even start?”
The things to take away from this movie are certainly the performances. I don’t know if the praise for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep can be effusive enough. I know she’s considered one of the finest actresses ever, but the past few movies I really thought Meryl was kind of dipping into current-Al-Pacino (and I suppose current-Robert-De-Niro) acting. But she was just ridiculously good here. Her accent was spot on. Her character was so real I just hated her. Hoffman is cementing his status as best-of-generation. Viola Davis, in what little screen time she had, was spot on. A woman doing what was needed, putting up with what she could because of the circumstances.
I’m not saying the performances in Frost/Nixon were better than those in Doubt. But for me, the single problem in the plot of Doubt was bigger than any niggling issues with Frost/Nixon. And given how central the problem I had with Doubt was to the movie, it was just hard to overcome.
But watch Doubt. Watch Frost/Nixon. Feel free to skip Gran Torino.