Spotlight – A Cinematic Indictment of the Catholic Church

Once again, I have to thank Sunday morning television for informing me of an important and noteworthy event. In this case, the information came in the form of a 30-second commercial, not just about a film but yet another salvo against the catholic church and the pedophile priest scandal: Spotlight. This docudrama purports to tell the story of how the Boston Globe newspaper staff researched and revealed the massive child abuse scandal being perpetrated by the local archdiocese, how the church itself knew about its offending priests and moved them from parish to parish to avoid attention and prosecution.

Just how far and how much detail Spotlight goes into, I don’t know, as the movie is currently only in limited release and will not enjoy general availability until November 20, 2015, but the data I’ve seen on it at this time tells me that its producers are swinging for the fences with this opus. First of all, the front cast is all A-list: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Stanley Tucci, to name a few. According to IMDB.com’s trivia page on the movie, Keaton and Ruffalo have done considerable research into the men they play and involved them directly in the quality of their performances. This has gone to the point where, when commenting about Keaton’s performance, Globe reporter Walter V. Robinson stated: “My persona has been hijacked. If Michael Keaton robbed a bank, the police would quickly have me in handcuffs.” Similar observations have been made regarding Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Robinson’s associate, Michael Rezendes. Clearly, verisimilitude is high in the minds of those trying to relate what happened and make this piece credible.

Certainly I am encouraged to see such a major project come to fruition. This issue has been dealt with before, with Alex Gibney’s Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, but that was a documentary which did not see large-scale distribution or promotion. Spotlight gives all the appearances of being a serious cinematic effort whose bankroll clearly includes appropriate funds for advertising to reach a far larger audience. Many reviews compare it in glowing tones to Alan Pakula’s classic All the President’s Men, but there’s an important difference. AtPM was made after Nixon resigned and the dust in large portion had settled. The events which inspired Spotlight are far from resolved, and controversy still surrounds a church which still hasn’t come fully to terms with its own transgressions or the need for them to be addressed and corrected.

The problem is that this story, one way or another, has been around for untold time and reported on for roughly 40 years. CBS News 60 Minutes first reported on similar events in the mid to late 1970s. The Boston Globe’s efforts at bringing the RCC’s misdeeds to light were tireless and revelatory, as were Alex Gibney’s in his above-mentioned documentary. With all of that, the church seemingly continues to maintain its Teflon artifice, and no one in authority has shown the willingness to say definitively, “Enough is enough.”

I very much want to go see Spotlight … but more than that, I want to see people get mad enough to DO something about it.

Postscript: For those who are interested, here is the trailer for Spotlight:

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Comment by The Flying Atheist on December 19, 2015 at 10:35pm
That's great to hear, Loren. I'm looking forward to seeing it myself. I've heard all good reviews about it.
Comment by Loren Miller on December 19, 2015 at 9:18pm

Well, it took a while, but I finally saw Spotlight this evening ... and I am pleased to say, not only was I not disappointed, but virtually every expectation I had for this movie was more than met.  There was no over-dramatization, no excessive rending of hands or whatever, just straight storytelling and damned well done.

And just an aside: I fully expect Mark Ruffalo to get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, though to be candid, the entire front cast deserves some very appreciative notice for their performances here.

Comment by kathy: ky on November 8, 2015 at 7:28pm
Excellent Loren! I use the library a lot too.
Comment by Loren Miller on November 8, 2015 at 7:22pm

[VERY big grin!] Sometimes I positively LOVE the Cuyahoga County Public Library!  They have Kill the Messenger available on DVD, and I just reserved it!

Comment by Pat on November 8, 2015 at 6:58pm

Actually, I had heard of it, but couldn't remember the name of the movie. About a journalist who exposed CIA drug operations. Am planning on seeing it. Thanks for the reminder , Kathy.

Comment by The Flying Atheist on November 8, 2015 at 4:46pm

I haven't heard of Kill the Messenger, either.  It's a new (2014) film and has good reviews.  Just added it to my Netflix list.  It's available on disc only, no streaming at this time.  Thanks for the tip, Kathy.

Comment by Loren Miller on November 8, 2015 at 4:01pm

I'd never heard of Kill the Messenger, Kathy.  Thanks for the reference.

Comment by kathy: ky on November 8, 2015 at 3:45pm
Fyi kill the Messenger aka the Iran/Contra affair.
Comment by kathy: ky on November 8, 2015 at 3:08pm
I've seen a couple of the stars interviews on late night and am looking forward to the movie.
As for the rcc coming down.. can't happen soon enough but I won't hold my breath.
The situation is similar to the story line in Kill the Messenger. Many people were victimized but the culprits were never brought to justice.
Comment by Loren Miller on November 8, 2015 at 2:46pm

Pat & Carl, as to the quality of the movie, all I can say are that the notices aren't just good, they're excellent.  Rottentomatoes.com rates it a 96%, which for a new release is phenomenal.  Many reviews say that the film does NOT lionize the protagonists but tells the story straight, and a reporter for the Boston Globe found Keaton's and Ruffalo's performances flirted closely with reality.  Pretty damned high praise, I'd say.

No one has asked me anything about the RCC or Frankie at all, but this movie, plus Mea Maxima Culpa and the 2009 Intelligence Squared debate on whether the catholic church are a force for good in the world are well in my pocket.  Should someone ask, they'll wish they hadn't.

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