“It takes a village to raise them. It takes a village to abuse them.”
Even the deepest buried skeletons can be uncovered with a little perseverance. In 1974, a Boston priest is brought in to a police station on possible molestation charges, but they all get swept under the rug and nary a word is made.
Now in the year 2001, new editor of the Boston Globe Marty Brown (Liev Schrieber) becomes interested in revisiting the story after reading a column about a priest who is believed to have molested multiple children over 30 years. The task of finding the story and bringing it to the masses who may not actually want the story published fall on to the Spotlight team of the Globe, a four-person investigative reporting unit led by “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), featuring Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James).
Does real journalism exist now? Yours truly is probably the wrong person to ask this question (of course it still does, if one seeks it out), but it does seem like the glut of what exists today, likely as a part of our digital society, is extremely light on substance and research. Spotlight is a true-to-life and riveting film about what it took to bring an unbelievably horrific and decades-spanning happening out of the dark and into the light.
“True-to-life” may be a very strong choice of words, but perhaps here more than any other movie, Spotlight feels less like a cinema feature and more like a documentary. Even documentary may be the wrong word. I’d go so far to say that Spotlight feels akin to you and I observing employees doing their jobs. In this case, the audience is watching journalists Robinson, Rezendes, Pfeiffer, and Carroll attempt to deliver an earth-shattering story. Even though the subject matter and how it evolves how from an isolated incident to a full-on epidemic is a focus of Spotlight, the focus is simply the painstaking work of being an investigative reporter.
It may sound dull, but it is far from being so. The look at journalism, its inherent responsibilities, and the constant grit-and-grind and it takes to get a single investigative story published is fascinating. Yours truly always has had massive respect for those who are really in the field, and even more respect after viewing this. Director Tom McCarthy (The Cobbler—?!) is pretty basic style-wise in regards to adding anything eye-catching, but it may be a stylistic choice, keeping everything “as is” with no unnecessary frills or embellishment.
Then again, when guys like Stanley Tucci and John Slattery are appearing in the cast and billed around the six or seven slot, directorial frills may not be a necessity. The aforementioned two, Rachel McAdams, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schrieber, Mark Ruffalo, and Michael Keaton are all superb and extremely believable as a journalistic unit, with tons of well-written back and forth lines.
Perhaps the only small downside to them being so well oiled as a unit is the that, individually and for Oscar chances, they do not stand out as much. But these aren’t amazing, larger-than-life characters, nor should they be. They are people who are doing what they are hired to do, and that in of itself is refreshing with no external side romances, family issues, or the like.
If there is one person out of the awesome cast that does stand out, however, it, for my money, would be Ruffalo. His Renzendes character, like the others, isn’t one to be remembered for all time, but as the movie goes on, Ruffalo’s performance just sticks with the viewer, from his steadfastness in getting answers to his mannerisms in even just getting a cab and speaking with a lawyer. Back-to-back supporting nominations could be in the near future.
It’s great to see that McCarthy and Spotlight pay respect to those that finally brought needed attention and actual eyes to a dark chapter in the Archdiocese and ultimately the Roman Catholic church. In the form of a stellar film, Spotlight is also a great reminder that, in a world of TMZ’s and Perez Hilton’s, substantial journalism can still be had, and when it exists, we better take notice.
Photo credits go to ew.com, filmreporter.com, and usatoday.com.
Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson