Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Very UU Movie Disguised as a Catholic Movie.

On the way home from the movie theatre, our exchange student from Germany commented that there are way too many fat people in movies and TV shows and even cartoons who happen to be German. Add that to the current rash of movies about the Nazi era, and one would feel a bit awkward being German in America just now.

So it's no surprise that she did not want to see "Doubt" with us since she is also Catholic! From the trailers, the movie appears to be another Catholic-bashing vehicle, with Meryl Streep playing a dour, spiteful nun, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman a misguided/misunderstood/miscreant (you will wonder about this all through the movie) priest.

Let me begin by saying that these are Oscar-level performances, and Amy Adams as the naive, trusting nun is no slouch, either. But, for me, the movie raised far more questions about my own faith than it did about Catholicism. My faith, the Unitarian Universalist faith.

The film begins with a homily given by the genial priest who serves a parish as well as a middle school. It's all about doubt. Bottom line: it is doubt that makes us human, uncertainty that unites us and keeps us humble and real. Doubt is not a bad thing. It's good.

Needless to say, this homily triggers the suspicions of Sister Aloysius (Streep) who becomes more and more convinced that the priest is talking about his own doubt in himself, and who targets him in a kind of gender-reverse witch hunt.

I won't reveal the end, even though it is subtle and far from shocking.

But the story line is tight and the acting thoroughly convincing. It's a film about humanity, and there will be no doubt, by the film's end, that the way of questioning, what I call the UU way of "living with uncertainty" is far better for our souls than unwavering commitment to any set of guidelines, rules, commandments, or dogmas. It's not an anti-Catholic movie so much as an anti-certainty movie. See it and see whether you agree.