I can't review John Patrick Shanley's Doubt this early but after today's screening, I would like to both pat myself on the back and slap myself. I was right and wrong about its Oscar prospects when the cast was first announced seasons ago.
Wrong... about Meryl Streep's third Oscar. Sister Aloysius is a sticky role but it's not the slam dunk "erase memories of Cherry Jones's powerhouse stage creation"' it needed to be for Streep to reach Nicholson's three statue tally. Best Actress fanatics take note: the way is clear for Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road / The Reader) if she delivers --it's getting harder and harder to imagine anyone else winning.
Right... about Viola Davis. You'll remember that I've been more confident about Davis ("Mrs. Miller") in the supporting actress field than any other candidate and I cautioned other prediction-happy types earlier this year to ignore Amy Adams starpower and focus on the actual roles being played. Mrs. Miller is, to my way of thinking, the key factor in Doubt's arguably overblown reputation as a Great Play. She's the pivot point: After the heartbreak of her one big scene, nothing is the same for the play's lead characters again. More importantly, after her troubling walk-on, nothing is the same for the audience. It's a sneaky miracle part. Mrs. Miller shades and shocks the otherwise blunt themes into more troubling life. It's no longer a simplistic audience game of who did or didn't do what but an ambiguous and emotionally and morally complex problem to wring your hands over. Unless Academy voters get stingy about her screentime, expect to see Viola Davis all dolled up on Oscar night.
Update: The Envelope has an extensive interview up with Viola Davis