With about 4 weeks until the Academy Awards, I’m still watching these highly lauded films to be as knowledgeable as I can. I still have a bit of a list to watch, but I have made some good progress and I think I will make it. I just wish the Academy would make it a little easier on me by sending me screeners of all the movies. But one of the most recent that I was able to catch was Spotlight. It tells the story of how the Boston Globe shined their Spotlight, also the name of their long-running investigative unit, onto the cover up of abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. You can read a great article on the Boston Globe’s website about how the real story unfolded and how it was transformed into a movie.
In a nutshell, the Spotlight team was lead by its editor Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), who was born in raised in Boston. His team of reporters: Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sasha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) who were all known for their reporting skills followed the leads and uncovered the ugly truth. The investigation took five months, and countless hours, but the finished product was a story that would change so much.
Over time, there have been many jobs that have been held in high esteem. I’m thinking of pilots, astronauts, police officers, and firefighters. While some of those jobs have lost their luster in the public eye, we have not seen a fall from grace quite so drastic as that of the Priest. Going back to the middle ages, the Priests were among the most highly educated people in a given city or town, and as a Christian, it disgusts me to even think about the scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church.
A few isolated incidents of priests (or pastors) falling into sin is unavoidable. However, the story that Spotlight tells goes deeper to reveal the ugly truth that the Catholic Church as an institution collaborated to cover-up these incidents, protect the offenders from justice, and create an environment where further atrocities could take place. This pains me as a believer knowing that we are all fallen and corrupt people in need of grace, but I can only imagine the collective effect that these scandals have had on the church (Catholic and Protestant alike) as non-believers and marginal attenders have left in droves in the past decade. An article at Salon.com reveals that, “Catholic defection is the single greatest factor driving the much-heralded rise of the nones, who now account for just under 23 percent of the population. Almost one-third (28 percent) of nones are former Catholics, the single largest share of any religion.” I hope Churches, organizations, and businesses will learn from this story and know that when something like this happens it affects a lot of people, and they must understand that some bad press is not as important as a person’s life and emotional well-being.
Oddly enough, reporters have perhaps lost just as much respect as priests but for a completely different reason. I mean, how much more respect can you get than being the job that Superman choose to do as his alter ego. But I miss the day when news was actually news. Why does anyone care that Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose are having a feud over a couple of selfies and social media posts? Why was Tom Brady sentencing and appeal over “Deflategate” headline news while Greece’s economy was tanking and Turkey was stepping up to fight Daesh. This film reminded me that journalists used to investigate and break real stories. I hope that the pendulum swings back to the American people valuing the reporters that tell real stories that impact the community and not which celebrities just broke up.
Channeling great films like All The President’s Men and Network, Spotlight, written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, honors the account of events with their writing but never loses sight of the story they are telling. The writing is outstanding. They don’t have any agenda in this film except telling the story. I was afraid that as this subject was handled in film we would see a vilifying of the Catholic Church. On the flip side, it was also good that they didn’t try to make heroes out of the Boston Globe. It felt like they tried to be completely unbiased while writing the story. It could have been very easy for this film turn into a Lifetime or ABC Family movie and be a manipulative mess, but instead it became a polished and well-wrought film.
McCarthy, also the director, lets his actors and the shocking truth take center stage. Mark Ruffalo gives a fantastic performance as a highly driven investigative journalist and has really been knocking them out of the park lately. Michael Keaton also gives another awards season-worthy performance as the leader of the Spotlight team. Stanley Tucci was amazing, though I don’t think Tucci is capable of giving a bad performance. Also, Liev Schreiber gives one of the best performances of his career. His turn as Marty Baron was calm and understated, but he takes charge in every scene he’s in, which is saying something considering the caliber of the other actors and actresses with whom Schreiber shares the screen.
Spotlight is one of those movies that will stand the test of time and is deserving of the awards credit that it is receiving. I really enjoyed this film as it takes the time to deal with a heartbreaking story that needs to be told. Everything from the writing to the acting is amazing. I doubt that Spotlight will make it to the top of the Oscars heap, but it definitely deserves to be widely seen and given all of the praise that we can give.