Spotlight (2015)
November 28, 2015 3:15 PM - Subscribe

In the summer of 2001, new Boston Globe editor-in-chief Marty Baron tells his staff on the paper's "Spotlight" team that he wants them to focus on allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Initial incredulity aside, they come on board, one by one.

This movie is a journalism procedural, which means there's a lot of talking, digging for facts in musty basements and libraries, and some courtroom maneuvering to boot. Director Todd McCarthy ("The Station Agent") eschews scenes of high emotional drama in favor of quiet revelation: a great example is when reporter Sacha Pfeiffer's extremely Catholic grandmother reads the initial, groundbreaking report of the coverup and quietly asks Sacha for a glass of water.

Standout performances: Michael Keaton (Walter Robinson), Mark Ruffalo (Mike Rezendes), Rachel McAdams (Pfeiffer), Liev Schreiber (Baron) and Stanley Tucci playing a plaintiff's lawyer that's essentially a composite of several real-life people.

One of the most effective moments in the film is the final shot as well as the end credits, where we learn conclusively that the abuse and its coverup were worldwide. The Globe itself does not escape scot-free either.

I saw this movie in a city close to Boston, where some parishes were definitively scarred by the abuse and coverup. As the credits rolled, more and more people applauded... I think they needed some time to digest what they'd just seen. It's that kind of movie.

Notable reviews:
posted by Sheydem-tants (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I heard a bit of local Boston radio discussing that several of the key players involved had issue with specific details. It was along the lines of such and such a scene never actually occurred, but the film opens with the disclaimer "based on real events" and it's pretty unlikely that a reporter or lawyer is going to get a film re-cut at this point.

Don't know the ending but it should be with Cardinal Law living the high life in Vatican City fat, smug and happy.
posted by sammyo at 4:06 PM on November 28, 2015


Actually, Stanley Tucci plays a lawyer based on one individual, Mitchell Garabedian
posted by pxe2000 at 3:49 AM on November 30, 2015


I urge everyone to see this film, especially anyone who grew up (and/or is) Catholic.

When the Boston Globe Spotlight reports began to come out, I was a very devout teenager who spent my childhood Sundays as an altar server and cantor in my parish, who had been educated exclusively in Catholic schools and took my faith seriously. The children's choir singing "Silent Night" in a pivotal part of the film was a perfect choice. I can still see Christmas Mass through the eyes I had as a child -- the whole church lit with candles and covered with poinsettas, all of us in our best dresses, and always everyone joining together to sing "Silent Night." It could have been any one of us, our siblings, cousins, classmates, friends, parents, children...

It amounts to nothing in comparison to the crimes perpetrated against the victims and their families, but for so many of us, that winter of 2002 and every revelation since then destroyed an innocence, an ability to trust and feel safe and at home in our faith, that had been the bedrock of our lives. Perhaps I would have begun to doubt anyways, but to have this central part of my identity ripped apart as easily as cheap wrapping paper and find this tumor underneath...I see all these people I grew up with continuing to pretend everything is just fine but the tumor remains and you can feel everyone from the most doctrinaire to the most progressive Catholic flinch away when you touch on it.

I wish I still believed Hell was real, so I could know Cardinal Law would burn there for eternity. I am still so angry.
posted by sallybrown at 5:21 PM on November 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Here are a few 2002 Metafilter threads covering the Boston-area scandal.
posted by sallybrown at 6:02 PM on November 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Director is Tom McCarthy, not Todd.)
posted by holborne at 9:41 AM on December 1, 2015


I urge everyone to see this film, especially anyone who grew up (and/or is) Catholic.


Agreed, and I'll also add anybody unsure of the importance of investigative journalism in a healthy society. This is the best and most important movie I've seen in a long time, a rare combination.
posted by one_bean at 7:41 PM on December 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


We saw it tonight, and it was indeed a very powerful and well-executed film about an important and tragic piece of history.

One Easter egg that some might not have noticed: there's a scene in a bar where one of the reporters is interviewing one of the victims, and on the TV in the background is a Penn State football game, with a closeup of Joe Paterno, another institutional leader who failed to act to protect children from sexual abuse.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:53 AM on December 2, 2015 [10 favorites]


I wanted to yell "EVERYONE SEE THIS MOVIE" after I got out of the theater. It is always gratifying to watch a hardcore journalism procedural with no fluff or interpersonal drama, about people who give a shit about fighting the system. I think David Simon called this movie "journalism porn" or something to that effect, and it totally is, and it's totally awesome.
posted by windbox at 7:18 AM on December 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


While I was watching it, I was impressed with what a good journalism procedural it was, and what a pleasure it was to watch people just doing their jobs, and doing them well. After it was over, and after the movie had very effectively landed its emotional punches, I was most impressed with its restraint. It would have been very easy to make a movie about this story that was full of sensationalism and sentiment. But the subject matter is much better served by Spotlight's level-headed, clear-eyed restraint. That restraint lets the moral and emotional force of the movie build slowly, until suddenly you're more furious and heartbroken than you thought you were.
posted by yasaman at 5:17 PM on December 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


While I was watching it, I was impressed with what a good journalism procedural it was, and what a pleasure it was to watch people just doing their jobs, and doing them well. After it was over, and after the movie had very effectively landed its emotional punches, I was most impressed with its restraint. It would have been very easy to make a movie about this story that was full of sensationalism and sentiment. But the subject matter is much better served by Spotlight's level-headed, clear-eyed restraint. That restraint lets the moral and emotional force of the movie build slowly, until suddenly you're more furious and heartbroken than you thought you were.

This totally nails how I thought about it. To me it was the best movie I saw in 2015, and the focus on the craft of journalism went a long way toward making this movie great. Watching the journalists work and unearth the story piece by piece avoided the kind of cheap ploys for emotional reaction that the material could have otherwise lent itself to. I felt that the film really earned the emotional payout it delivered in the end.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:17 PM on March 17, 2016


This is a great movie. As soon as I finished it I had to turn around and watch it again.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:17 PM on August 6, 2016


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