This movie’s all about the acting. Kind of an obvious statement, but in the case of Spotlight, the viewer isn’t waiting for any chilling plot twists or cinematic treasures. They’re locked in because Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams make you root for them right off the bat. It takes place in late 90’s and early 2000’s Boston where the Globe is about to bust open a huge story on a pervasive cover-up of child molestation perpetrated by the Catholic church.
That’s a rough subject that keeps you on the uncomfortable edge of your seat, methodically picking at your cuticles. But look at this guy – I would love to work for Michael Keaton. He’s the editor of the Spotlight investigative team, providing the perfect balance of excited encouragement and bust-your-balls demands. A team that’s on the verge of a devastating scoop and all the corroborative pressure that goes along with it. The viewer gets the impression that in most American towns this kind of story would easily burst on the scene and instigate sweeping institutional changes from the offending party. But Boston is a Cat’lick town. Like super Cat’lick. You want to make it to sergeant in the fire department? Better be a consistent contributor on Sundays.
Keaton’s great – he always is. I don’t understand his decade-long lull in Hollywood. He must have big-timed a few too many execs or something. But Ruffalo stands out slightly above the rest. He looks 40, dresses 20, and acts like a 15 year-old on his first afterschool job. His character is definitely qualified for investigative journalism though, and is the sleepless agitator that helps drag out the truth from numerous sources. If you like newspaper floor dramas and think season 5 of The Wire was the best, then you’ll love this movie.
You’ll also like it if you’re a conspiracy theory fan, because a doozy of a coincidence comes up near the end of the movie that reminds the audience about the pre-9/11 days. Everything stopped and nothing was the same after the twin towers went down – including a building child abuse scandal that seemed small in comparison. Did the Catholic church have anything to do with that? Probably not, but probably I also like the idea that such a horrible thing could be true.
I also want to believe that the CIA implants traceable impulses to purchase Catcher in the Rye into sleeping operatives to carry out unsavory tasks. Any Mel Gibson fans out there? Yeah he’s probably the biggest slimeball in Hollywood, but man that guy delivers a satisfying movie. Why don’t films like Conspiracy Theory or Ransom or Payback get any love by the Academy? Yeah, we know they’re not going to, we know this. But whyyyy? I’d much rather re-watch any of those for the 15th time than Spotlight again. In fact, yeah this movie was good, but I’m over it. Pop me some corn and let’s watch a Lethal Weapon or three. We’ve lived under these rules for too long and I for one will be happy to lead the revolution.
Spotlight is a solid movie that gives you a satisfying “Yep-I-just-learned-something-that-I’ll-tell-everyone-about-next-week” feel. But don’t go see it if you have a serious blind admiration for all things Catholic. While watching I definitely had a few mental diversions back to grade school and scanned every year for a possible blacked-out memory. But no, think I’m good. The only scandalous events were the candle fireballs we used to launch in the rectory. And I was a good looking kid.
Rent it at this point if you haven’t seen it. Invite over the folks or your book club friends and discuss the real-world ramifications of such a disgusting travesty. Then go home early and watch a couple episodes of South Park over a big bowl of CT Crunch. You’ve done your duty and the world is a better place now.