I think I may attempt a post every day this week. The smart idea would be to stockpile these for when I am drawing a blank and every entry comes out stupid. I am erring on the side of creativity.
Around Christmastime, a fellow churchgoer and I were comparing our plans. He was a little jealous that I had no parties and no obligations. He would have used at least some of my free time to catch up on movies. One of them that he thought was a sure thing for Best Picture was Spotlight.
I had seen the trailer and made a mental note that I would like to watch it, but it had slipped from my mind. He wanted to root for it because of how it dealt with the Catholic issue in Boston. I wanted to see it because of Rachel McAdams and the newsroom setting.
Have I raved about Rachel McAdams? I think she is pretty fantastic. (And yeah, pretty.) I keep trying to convince myself that I like The Notebook, even though every screening leaves me wanting to pluck my eyeballs out. Mean Girls more than made up for that, and insured my loyalty.
She is, and I will fight this point ‘til the end, the only choice for Lois Lane. She looks like her, right down to the chin that Dan Jurgens always draws Lois with. She is capable of being compassionate but at the same time, can come across as a smart, capable, and a driven woman. She is able to go from Intense, then kind at the drop of a hat. And she apparently likes playing journalists. State of Play could easily be the origin story for her Spotlight character. (I rather like it, give it a watch.)
They had me at McAdams, but they still kept tempting. Michael Keaton, fresh off of Birdman. Mark Ruffalo, displaying a nervous, almost twitchy energy in a character who cannot sit still. Liev Schreiber can carry a scene when he wants to, and he brings his weight to his role. And then they dangled Stanley Tucci in my face.
Stanley Tucci is a treat to watch. We will talk about Easy A later. He almost makes me want to watch The Hunger Games finale. He is the only reason I kind of, sort of, want to watch Burlesque. Of course he was fantastic in The Devil Wears Prada. I delight in his comedic roles, but if he wants to go serious, he is more than capable.
I have nothing against the Catholics. Their way is a little different than mine. I admire anybody who has that sort of stringent dedication. I find church once a week is enough for me. I like letting God play things as they come without too many rites and rituals. However they approach things much more seriously than I do. To each their own; at the end of the day we are both trying to make the world a better place and doing our best to follow God how we feel led. No qualms on my end.
That is why I started to get a little uncomfortable. In order to fully root for the main characters, you have to want the church to lose. Clearly some men are doing bad things. The human side of me wants punishment. This is especially if the victims are children. You screw with children (an unfortunate word choice, but appropriate), you need to be dealt with.
Much like Captain America (Tucci movie!), “…I just don’t like bullies.” I want justice. My church teaches forgiveness over justice. Peace over vengeance. “But… but… Here are these folks on the screen working so hard to bring the truth to light! We gotta root for them so that evil does not win!” It was, certainly, a back and forth for me.
The director and writers made it very clear that these kids had grown up to become damaged adults. Naturally, some survived better than others. There were suicides, men that injured themselves, and many who would threaten violence to reporters asking questions about a topic that is sensitive to a man’s masculinity, community, and religion all at once.
As I often find with great movies, there were a few scenes that sold the movie for me. The first was Mark Ruffalo cutting loose. You saw him breathe oddly, go for runs, and tap his foot on the ground for an hour and a half. He is perpetual motion personified. Then, when he finds something that is worth reporting, all of his energy comes out in an explosion of emotion. He yells and screams, demanding that they publish so that the children he has seen do not get abused. He grew up Catholic, and cannot handle the notion that he could have been treated the way these kids have been.
(Then they follow that up with Ruffalo confiding to McAdams that while he had not been to church in a while, he always thought that someday he had would go back. While he considered himself lapsed, there was a part of him that still believed in the religion; in the institution. That small hope seemed to die as he found out more and more. It kills me when hope dies. [And McAdams, in true reporter/Lois Lane fashion, sits there and understands, receives, and effortlessly gets him to confide in her.])
The scene that shook me the most was also one of the quietest. At the very end of the movie, McAdams is sitting at the kitchen table, watching her Nana read the article. They established the two’s relationship very well. McAdams went to church with her grandma, even though she did not believe herself. Her grandma went to church three times a week. If there was any portrayal of a Good Little Catholic in the film, it was this non-threatening and elderly woman.
So imagine when you, a person that does not believe in the church anymore, feel the weight of several months researching all these horrible things. Now you have to sit next to your grandma, who believes that this organization is pure, good, and holy, reads through the facts.
She knows her granddaughter is good at her job. She knows that they would not publish these things if they were not true. She has to decide whether to have faith in her granddaughter’s integrity, or the church’s. I think it is hard for her, but I think she makes the call in an instant. On top of that, she has to read all these horrible things about a group of people she has cared for all of her life, probably with names of people that she has come to know over the decades. Watching that play out, and the expression on McAdams’ face (I am the one crushing her right now, my reporting is what is making her gasp and cry); it wrecked me quite deeply. They only had two lines, and it was a short scene, but less is more.
A solid, across the board performance was given by all actors. The story was an important one. And the crew was smart enough not to rush the complicated plot. They let the movie breathe. I still am not sure I could call it enjoyable. There is no doubt that it was powerful.
With many true-life movies, they will show some facts and aftereffects. Something like six hundred articles were written in the next few years. Similar abuse was found in so many cities that it took two to three columns spread over several screens to list them all. They were international. As I had feared and assumed, there were more than a few in my area and home state.
I think Spotlight should be watched. I feel it should be rewarded. Yet I still wish that it had not been a story in the first place. I like to think that Christians are much, much better than this. Learn from the examples of others, and try to keep a closer eye on our behavior? If nothing else, it adds importance to the notion that we need critics. Having our flaws pointed out makes it easier to face and remedy them.