Doubt

    Screw designer labels. This time around, the devil wears black habits: Meryl Streep resurrects her trademark constipated face in “Doubt,” adapted from the Pulitzer- and Tony-award winning play by John Patrick Shanley centering on a case of child molestation at a 1964 Bronx parochial school. Rather than gravitating toward scandal, however, the film uses black-collar pedophilia to expose the human capacity for glibly relegating doubt into conviction.

    As the school’s no-nonsense principal, Sister Aloysius (Streep) lives by strict discipline and moral rectitude — proofed, certainly, by the yardstick up her ass (if not hidden up her tunic). On the flip side, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) secularizes his sermons in an effort to make the clergy more accessible to the parish. But when Sister Aloysius’s vulnerable protege, Sister James (Amy Adams), suspects Flynn of devoting excessive attention to Donald Muller (Joseph Foster), Aloysius crusades to oust Father Flynn from the school — only to be met by his aggressive authority.

    Halloweeny costume design belies the powerful showcase of acting that “Doubt” promises. Perhaps the most baffling creative decision, though, is the film’s grand-scale transposition of a minimalist, four-actor play— undoubtedly one of this winter’s braver endeavors. In theaters Dec. 12.

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