Movie Review: Spotlight
Spotlight was probably not the best choice of movie to see the day before our day-long pre-cana class. But aside from that, this is a good film. Really good.
The film follows the crew of Boston Globe reporters as they uncover the story of the priest molestations and subsequent cover-up by the Catholic church. The movie is a bit heavy-handed with shots of children and churches (I live in Boston and there certainly aren't kids or churches everywhere I turn), but otherwise does a good job of telling the story and juggling many characters in a clear and compelling way. While I don't think Rachel McAdams did much of anything to deserve her Oscar nod, Mark Ruffalo did (and he got one), and so did Michael Keaton and Stanley Tucci. They make up a solid cast of characters and portray them with depth and heart, and while it's a long movie, these performances make it go by quickly.
This movie is hard to review because I am Catholic, and went to Catholic school, and am getting married in the Catholic Church. There's a line in the movie about how it is important to keep this institutional scandal separate from the faith itself, and I think it's an important viewpoint with which to take in the movie.
Spotlight is a heavy movie but it lightens itself up with a few jokes and shots of the Boston skyline. Even though there was no Ben Affleck, this Boston movie still gets my stamp of approval.
Stars: 5 out of 5
Better Boston Movie Than: Black Mass
Worse Boston Movie Than: The Town (duh)
With Black Mass and Spotlight, the past year must have been a rough one for the Boston Tourism Board. Expect Good Will Hunting 2 to be commissioned by fall.
The archetype of the workaholic investigative journalist is quickly beginning to feel of another time in the distant past, the same way the hard-nosed private eye did before it.
This is a film about many things, but it most successfully captures the romanticism of newspaper journalism, which is presented as a pretty terrible gig but a noble and important one. Newspapers are increasingly feeling irrelevant to culture at large (I ride the subway to and from work every day and I can count on my fingers the number of times I've seen someone reading a paper on the subway in the last five years), but the image of the newsroom and the tireless journalist still resonate as something distinctly American and idealist. Spotlight really succeeds at capturing that without excessive sensationalism of it.
The context is more important in the perception of some movies than others. Someone who lost their job and house during the recession probably has a complicated reaction to The Big Short, but Mad Max is Mad Max. As an Irish Catholic writer in Boston, I have vested interest in many of the subjects being covered, and I walked away impressed on all levels. This is a Boston movie that feels intimately Boston, and this is a movie about a tragic and terrible scandal that handles the subject in a measured, human, deeply compelling way, resisting easy sensationalism.
In a year where the other big movies based on real events feature a shill for the Home Shopping Network and greedy investment bankers taking on greedier monsters and present them in a ludicrously saintly fashion, the fact that the protagonists in Spotlight come off as real people is a great testament to the careful and confident work of Tom McCarthy. Directors making movies based on a true story could learn a lot from Spotlight.
How Does it Compare to other Movies about Journalists?
Better Than: Zodiac
As Good As: All The President's Men