Sunday, February 7, 2016

Spotlight (2015)

Director: Tom McCarthy
Writers:  Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Cast:       Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, Stanley Tucci

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Boston is a unique place in USA with a very distinct cultural identity. It is very Irish and Catholic and you need that information in hand to realize how big a story it would have been there when Boston Globe broke it. The film follows Globe's 'Spotlight' team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in the United States.  It is based on a series of stories by the Spotlight team that earned The Globe 2003 Pulitzer prize for public service. The film begins with the appointment of Liev Schrieber's character as the Chief Editor of The Globe. He is an outsider and a Jew. The film is set in 2001 and when they start talking about cuts due to the creeping presence of online media, you do worry that they are gonna for a nostalgic sermon about the goodness of the old model. That worry is misplaced since they don't pursue it further and it is the Chief Editor who initiates the story as he thinks that enough follow up was not done for the story of an abusive priest and there is something institutional about Catholic Church's culpability that they can focus on. He is an outsider and sometimes it takes to be an outsider to shake things up. There is this one line that he delivers which sums up the scandal: 'It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to abuse one'. 

I'm a sucker for media led investigative stories and count 'The Insider' and 'All the President's Men' as among my all time favorite films. So it was quite natural for me to get excited about Spotlight. But the tone of the film is sharply different from the two films that I mentioned in terms of how less cinematic it is. Some would say it is more realistic but there are things in it which didn't really work for me. I thought the parts in which they show couple of reporters' (Mark Ruafflo and Rachel McAdams) private lives didn't really work for me and found them to be quite half-baked. I am a big fan of Ruffalo but thought his mannersims for the role was unnecessarily distracting. Don't know if he is basing it out of the real life person he is portraying, and if so, you don't really need that level of accuracy when you are playing someone who is not that famous. Michael Keaton, Liev Schrieber and Stanley Tucci were excellent in their respective roles. I actually didn't recognize Tucci in his getup with hair even though found the face to be very familiar. 

Overall it is still a great watch but don't think it is the 'Best Picture of 2015' material that they are talking about. At the end of it they show places from around the world where instances of child abuse from Catholic priests were unearthed after Globe broke their story and Ollur in Kerala also figured in it and it is not very far from where I live. The story is here: Kerala church priest, accused of raping nine-year-old, arrested. The film also cites a psychiatrist priest who studied the phenomenon for the Catholic church who says that as per his studies, 6% of Catholic priests in USA have molested children. The celibacy rule for the priests, unsurprisingly, is to blame and 50% of them are not celibate anyway. It is indeed funny how Catholic Church wants prohibition of alcohol in Kerala when they can learn from their own clusterfuck that prohibition never actually works.

Rating: 4/5