'Doubt' leaves doubt but has doubtless acting

The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.


"Doubt," rated PG-13

Meryl Streep. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Amy Adams. These three actors prove beyond a doubt that casting is essential in filmmaking.

Oh, yes, don't forget this name either: Viola Davis. In "Doubt," Davis' screen time is somewhere around 10 minutes (maybe less) and yet her performance, even surrounded by these acting heavyweights, is pivotal to the movie's success.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt" takes place in 1965, long before the Catholic Church dominated the news with endless sexual scandals. Shanley also directs the film and, unlike many stage adaptations, brings movement and depth beyond the stage to the screen.

This may be Streep's year. Not many actors can make the leap from Bohemian songstress to scary nun and make both equally believable, but she succeeds. Amy Adams is just getting started in her career but chooses her roles well ("Enchanted," "Charlie Wilson's War"). She's a talent to watch. Philip Seymour Hoffman? Wonderful.

"Doubt" is not an easy film outing, but it most assuredly is a worthwhile one. Shanley refuses to wrap his story with a neat bow at film's end. There are questions; there is doubt.

"Yes Man," rated PG-13

Jim Carrey may be a guilty pleasure. Viewers are hard-pressed to describe him as a serious actor because of his body of work, and yet, like Jerry Lewis generations ago, Carrey is a genius of physical shtick as demonstrated by his body of work - "Ace Ventura," "The Mask," and my personal favorite, "Liar Liar." I mean how can you not laugh out loud at a lawyer who is unable to lie and then physically beats himself up?

"Yes Man" is adapted from the novel of the same name by Danny Wallace, but evidently that's where any similarity ends. The premise of movie and book is that a man must answer "Yes" to any question posed to him over a period of time. The plot allows for countless compromising situations and scenarios that lend themselves to humor, but, alas, unless you're an adolescent without a tinge of intellectual acumen, there's really very little funny in "Yes Man."

Zooey Deschanel plays Carrey's reluctant love interest. Maybe part of her hesitancy on screen stems from their real life 18-year age difference. Even ignoring that May/December culturally tolerated premise, there's just not that much to recommend in this movie.

"Yes Man?" Not.

"Elegy," rated R

An elegy is a reflective poem that is usually nostalgic or melancholy. The movie "Elegy" is that and so much more.

A grown-up theme to be sure, the movie is based on the Philip Roth novel "The Dying Animal."

David Kepesh (Sir Ben Kingsley) is a satisfied man. Successful as a teacher and a critic, he shares a racquetball court and conversation with George (Dennis Hopper), a long-term sexual relationship with Carolyn (Patricia Clarkson) and a hostile relationship with his adult son Kenneth (Peter Sarsgaard).

But, at his age (best guess, in his 60s), David is unhappy.

Then Consuela (Penélope Cruz) takes his class. Always the man of propriety, he waits to "woo" her until after the semester, and their relationship slowly builds from casual dates to an intense affair.

Their age difference is of no concern to Consuela and an obsession with David, but "Elegy" is not your run of the mill May/December tryst. Director Isabel Coixet ("The Secret Life of Words") is a thoughtful, caring director, and their love affair is far more complicated than age difference.

Coixet assembled a brilliant cast with nary a weak link. Cruz and Kingsley bring believability and daring to difficult roles.

"Elegy" - a movie about grown-ups, for grown-ups.

Rebecca Redshaw can be reached at r2redshaw@

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