Spotlight: Review / by Kenneth Buff

Award season is here, and R-rated dramas are now raining supreme. God I love this. Movies made for adults. As an adult who loves movies I can’t really ask for more. Well, maybe a little more, but films like Spotlight are definitely a step in the right direction, and a lot more enjoyable than empty summer tent poles like Avengers, or frustrating fall ones like Spectre.

Spotlight tells the story of the The Boston Globe team who uncovered the sexual abuse committed by priests on children of the church. The film takes us through the nitty-gritty of journalistic research, letting the real life twists of the story be sexy enough to keep our attention, and it works—Spotlight is a thrilling tale, despite the audience already knowing how it ends. The cast is all good here, especially Michael Keaton and Liev Schreiber, but the film is filled with big-name actors who give strong supporting performances, like Mark Ruffalo and Racheal McAdams.

My biggest problem with the film was that in many dramatic scenes, rather than having the characters use the language real adults would use, the screenwriters opted for a replacement cuss word that children use, that word being “freaking” instead of just saying “fuck.” This seriously undercuts the emotional resonance of some of the film’s big-speech moments. Such as when a character is standing on a soapbox, condemning the sexual abuse, only to say something like “it could have been you, it could have been me, it could have freaking been any of us!” Compare that to “it could have been you, it could have been me, it could have fucking been any of us!” Which one sounds more real? This doesn’t just happen once, but several times in the film by different characters, and it always sounds forced, like the writers were shooting for a PG-13 rating (though there are at least two “fucks” said in the movie by important characters, “freaking” is definitely used more often) but somehow forgot you can only say “fuck” once and still get a PG-13 rating. There are a few other moments that come across as a bit hokey (Brian d'Arcy James and Mark Ruffalo’s character both come off unsincere to me at times, especially when you compare them to the incredibly strong performances of Keaton and Schreiber), but for the most part Spotlight delivers a worthwhile adult movie going experience.