I also had my doubts before entering the cinema. I thought this film would just be an endless tirade of moral and spiritual insights, a verbal jostle between a progressive priest and a conservative nun. Well, I think the dialogues were not at all that preachy. In fact, they were peppered with a good mix of sarcasm, wit, and naivete that I actually found some of them funny.
But more than anything else, you should watch this movie because of the acting. Do not mind the plot because it goes nowhere until it goes for the home run. How do I describe the plot? Well, imagine Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman playing table tennis for almost two hours. You know they are trying hard to outwit one another and the only source of anticipation is the curiosity as to who should end up victorious. That's about it.
I did not like Phillip Seymour Hoffman's performance here. I find it lacking. Meryl Streep totally dominated the confrontation scene. In defense of Hoffman, he actually tried to level the playing field but to me he was just plain shouting. He was just raising his voice and that's about it. In contrast to Streep's layered hysterics, I thought Hoffman's was one-dimensional at best.
Amy Adams was good enough to be nominated for an Oscar in my opinion, but I think the nomination is already the win. Her Sister James appears retarded to some people but I thought she was just naive. Overtly naive. If that is supposed to be the trademark of the role then I think Adams did just fine.
If there was anyone who actually made a big impression, it was actually Viola Davis. She appeared only twice and in that little amount of time she makes you remember her. Her performance was just so honest, you feel her emotions. You do not really know her or what she and her family have gone through in the story but you just think you do. I have already seen three of them in contention for the Oscar supporting actress statuette and among this woman, Amy Adams, and Taraji Henson (Benjamin Button) I would definitely give the trophy to Viola. For now. Because I know I would eventually end up rooting for Penélope once I see Vicky Christina Barcelona but whatever. Viola Davis was good here. If she wins, good for her.
A movie with Meryl Streep in it could never go wrong. I understand why some people think that Meryl just recycled her last Academy Award nominated performance in Prada for this film. Both Miranda and Sister Aloysius are cold and stern. There are many similarities, though I do not believe Miranda would utter anything longer than three sentences unless it is a monologue about the color Cerulean. I think the Prada performance was better although she downplayed that role big time but that does not make this particular performance any weaker. I think Sister Aloysius Beauvier as a character is not very likable but she clearly has more depth which Meryl was able to dig into to make the character her own. By the way, this is her 15th Academy Award nomination. If she wins this she ties Ingrid Bergman's two-actress/one-supporting Oscars, placing her right under Katharine Hepburn with four. I would be glad if Meryl wins because I am a Streeper (HAHAHA!) but I think I would root for Kate Winslet this year, even though I have not seen The Reader yet. I just do not like Sister Aloysius but Meryl Streep is awesome, as always.
Sister Aloysius' mini breakdown scene was a perfect way to end the movie. It tells the viewers, Hey, this old hag is actually a human being after all! And she has doubts, Sister James, she has doubts! Bravo Meryl! You are no doubt, the best actress of your generation. No one else comes close except maybe Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett. But they do not belong to your generation. I am beginning to talk non-sense. Damn. I love Meryl Streep.