****1/2 (out of five)
At least I know Boston, because I don’t really know the Catholic Church, and the more entwined you are with the Catholic Church, the more (even more) you’ll appreciate the dilemmas and obstacles involved in Todd McCarthy’s quite brilliant telling of the year the Boston Globe “Spotlight” team – a small, deliberately isolated, independent feature team of journalists who could pretty much take as long as they wanted to research and write a story (WOW!) – published details of The Church’s vile shenanigans that opened the way to greater public understanding of centuries of top-down acceptance of peadophilic abuse by its priests.
There’s a moment in this deliberately procedurally-focused film where the Spotlight team acknowledge that they were all at least “raised” Catholic. That’s why the film’s impact will hit closest to home for Boston Catholics – this is a “City Film”, and if it had been called Boston, we would all have been fine with that.
Part of the brilliance of Todd McCarthy’s film is that, even if you come from Timbuktu, you can at least “get it”, although I imagine that the billion or so people whose entire faith will be shattered will have the strongest experience. The fact that this has been going on for years isn’t news to us science folks, and it’s not really news to Catholics either. The film isn’t an exposé; it’s a “workplace” flick, brilliantly acted, and, if you’re a smart adult, I can’t imagine you won’t be completely engrossed by it. It’s excellent. There is only one problem, and it’s a very hard one to solve: actor John Slattery seems to be cursed by a unique actor’s gift: he cannot not be funny, and he’s not really meant to be funny talking about priests diddling small boys. He’s miscast, which is a shame. Everyone else is exceptional, although why Rachel McAdams is nominated for an Academy Award for a “listening attentively” role is a little baffling.