‘Spotlight’ draws a curious — but no longer outraged — crowd

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

All The Pope’s Pedophiles – Spotlight Reviewed.

Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy weren’t necessarily digging for a scoop while researching the 2002 Boston Globe exposé of the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal for the screenplay that would become Spotlight. Four people who played real-life roles in the uncovering of the Boston clergy sex-abuse scandal say the new film “Spotlight” has put false words in their mouths — and some are demanding apologies and cuts in the movie that showcases the Boston Globe’s reporting.For all the severity of its subject matter, Tom McCarthy’s extraordinary journalism drama Spotlight (in theaters now) is not a movie of noble gestures and emotive Oscar-bait moments.

I remember when the story first hit our newsroom, back in the ‘90s, when John Geoghan became the first of the Boston-area priests accused of molesting children. After all, they were already standing on the shoulders of giants – the Globe’s Spotlight team of investigative journalists had won the Pulitzer Prize for their series of articles that revealed how the Boston archdiocese, led by Cardinal Bernard Law, had shielded predator priests for more than three decades, shuffling them to different parishes when they molested children and shelling out millions to victims in confidential settlements. Boston College public affairs director Jack Dunn, former Globe reporter Stephen Kurkjian, former Globe publisher Richard Gilman, and victim lawyer Eric MacLeish all say their actions were misrepresented in a way that casts them in a negative light, apparently in an effort to add drama to the film. “All I want to do is to clear my name, and for the film producers to admit that they fabricated the dialogue to accommodate the narrative of the movie,” Dunn said. “They manufactured dialogue because they needed a villain, and they chose apparently to make me a villain.” Kurkjian is mentioned in the film as being dismissive of a key tipster.

Singing the praises of the superb “Spotlight,” the best cinematic love letter to newspaper journalism since “All the President’s Men,” may sound self-serving coming from a newspaper movie critic. The archdiocese had moved him from parish to parish over a 30-year career blighted by allegations of sexual misconduct and leaves for treatment that never seemed to work. Not only had the Globe published an official book documenting the Spotlight findings, Betrayal, but all their articles, including the more than 600 stories published in 2002 — leading to Law’s resignation — were available online. He told the Herald yesterday he “never spoke poorly of” the tipster to his editors, and said he’s demanded an apology from the director and screenwriter. “They sort of put words in our mouth.

To turn a spotlight fittingly on “Spotlight,” it’s the year’s best movie so far, and a rarity among countless dramatizations that claim to be based on actual events. Plus, the screenwriters had access to many of the Globe’s key people, including those depicted in the film: Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton), Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), and Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber). But it seems unlikely that the film, which opened to hundreds of theaters Friday (Nov. 20), will revive the general public rage and disgust with predatory priests and the church that hid them as the Globe’s stories did in 2002. You can’t do that and not have your motives and your professionalism called into question,” said Kurkijian, who declined to say if he’ll take legal action. “I’m at a loss to understand how they could have created these scenes so cavalierly.” Gilman, in an editorial in the Arizona Daily Star, said the movie has him voicing reservations he never had about how the reporting might affect the Globe’s bottom line. “Some of the fictionalizing is harmless.

According to that point of analogy, Schreiber’s top boss role is similar to Jason Robards’ Oscar-winning part as the saucy, colorful Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. So to see a movie where members of my chosen profession are held up as heroes — hard working, earnest and dedicated to uncovering the truth — is just, well, refreshing.

But one of the film’s most important twists — one that even eluded the Globe — fell into the filmmakers’ laps by accident. [The following contains SPOILERS.] In Spotlight, which the pair co-wrote and McCarthy directed, the dramatic weight of the film is epitomized by a line from the crusading attorney played by Stanley Tucci: “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” The film asks the difficult question: Was everyone, including the media, too deferential to the Church while crimes were happening in their backyards? The idea that abuse could be rampant — yet buried from the bleach of public scrutiny — is not so surprising anymore, said Richard Boudreau, 67, who was once an altar boy and a graduate of a Jesuit high school.

Some is not,” wrote Gilman, who could not be reached for comment. “The movie is dealing with real people with real names with real reputations. … But Baron, who left the Boston Globe in 2012 and incidentally now runs the Washington Post, is a quieter and more reticent personality, especially for a newsman.

A decade after the Globe expose when the Catholic scandal was at full boil, allegations that Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky abused children came to light. Injustices are done.” MacLeish, who obtained an $85 million settlement for victims, wrote on Facebook on Nov. 6 that a conversation in which Globe reporter Walter Robinson threatens to end MacLeish’s “cottage industry” of settlements never occurred. Having arrived from his previous job at the Miami Herald as the film begins, Baron is viewed with suspicion by most of his staff — and the good ol’ boy Irish Catholic culture. Nor did the scene where Pfeiffer searches the archives and brings the clipping of the December 1993 story to Robinson, proving MacLeish correct: it ran on B42 and didn’t include any of the priests’ names. And so did allegations that university officials and others were aware of his actions but failed to protect youth in Sandusky’s nonprofit program. “’Spotlight’ shows how people like Sandusky can hide and how people can evade taking a stand, even when they know about abuse,” said Boudreau, noting the film’s recounting of how the abuse was known throughout the Boston Catholic hierarchy and beyond.

But MacLeish praised the film to the Herald and said the filmmakers were “not required to clear their portrayal of my character with me.” Dunn, with perhaps the most damning portrayal, is shown in his capacity as a Boston College High School trustee trying to downplay clergy sex abuse in a meeting with Robinson, where his character says, “It’s a big school, Robbie, you know that. The movie recounts how a team of Boston Globe investigative reporters exposed the systematic cover-up of the decades-long sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Boston area. The Catholic Church’s coverup of pedophilia within its ranks for decades wound up forcing a much larger (and still unresolved) conversation involving clerical celibacy to take place. And a later scene, where Robinson admits to his colleagues that he had been the Metro editor back in ‘93, accepting his role in not catching the story sooner, didn’t happen either. Boudreau also recalls the early days of the scandal, when naysayers tried to blame it on homosexual priests and gay teens. “Speaking as a gay Catholic, that was painful.

Robinson graduated from BC High, and his character expresses incredulity that previous BC High administrators didn’t know about the serial abuse by one Rev. The penetrating screen presence which the actor has brought to dozens of roles during his 20 year film and TV career — including The Daytrippers, The Sum of All Fears, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Ray Donovan, not to mention his Tony-winning work on stage — has been tightly coiled in Spotlight into a stealth tiger of a man, whose calmness betrays his deep ethical conviction. The strength of McCarthy’s script is that it does two competing things: He shows how the reporters’ legwork tracking down the coverup story was exhaustive and decidedly unglamorous, but at the same time never lets the movie get bogged down in the minutiae of reporting.

McCarthy, his filmmaking colleagues and a flawless ensemble cast have captured their subject in all its richness and complexity. “Spotlight” is a fascinating procedural; a celebration of investigative reporting; a terrific yarn that’s spun with a singular combination of restraint and intensity; and a stirring tale, full of memorable characters, that not only addresses clerical pedophilia but shows the toll it has taken on its victims. They aren’t portrayed as superheroes – just professionals who put their time, talents and hard work getting this story right: months scouring records, knocking on doors, cajoling sources and not taking “no” for an answer. Though they already knew the main beats of the story they wanted to tell, they met with the Boston attorney — who’d represented numerous plaintiffs in complaints against the Church in the early 1990s — if only to help with casting.

And Schreiber, for the miraculously ego-less way in which he communicates that, gives what just might just be the most nuanced, subtly commanding performance of his life. If you can make a reporter finding critical court documents thrilling — and McCarthy ratchets up the tension in the expertly crafted sequence — you’ve accomplished something praiseworthy. But not long into their chat, MacLeish dropped the bomb. “It was a little bit like the moment that’s in the movie: You had 20 priests’ [names] in Boston?” says Singer. “My reaction was quite similar to Rachel and Michael’s in that scene: That can’t possibly be true. There were stories in the Globe at the time chronicling what Kemeza and Dunn said and did in response to the Globe inquiries, and a column praised BC High’s response compared to the foot-dragging and obstruction of the Archdiocese. What really makes “Spotlight” work, though, is that McCarthy — whose previous movies include the superb “The Station Agent” and “Win-Win” — never loses sight of the human story behind the sex-abuse claims.

While it winds up shortening the process for time sake the one thing the film does exceptionally well is show how long a proper investigation like this really is. But Schreiber, 48, still felt an enormous sense of responsibility when he accepted the part. “I was immensely proud to be playing Marty Baron,” he says. “There have been a couple roles in my lifetime that I thought, ‘This is really special.’ Marty is way up on that list, right up there with Hamlet and Iago. Artistic license means screenwriters and filmmakers can take a scene from real life and make it a composite that serves what they consider a larger truth.

It’s the differences that render “Spotlight” a must-see not only for journalists but for the people they serve. “All the President’s Men” put a David and Goliath morality tale in the hands of hugely popular actors — Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards — who proceeded to make investigative reporting appear not only cool but wildly successful. The number bumped up, however, when people could list multiple reasons for leaving: More than 1 in 5 said the scandal was “an important reason.” Still, Pope Francis has won high marks with a majority of Catholics (55 percent) who say he is doing a good or excellent job addressing the scandal. Then again, Francis wins high marks on most of the issues he faces. “This issue is still something that makes Catholics very upset and angry,” said Mark Gray, a senior researcher at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, an agency that tracks Catholic statistics. “It just isn’t the first thing on their mind when they think about the church, the way it might have been in 2002 and 2003.” In a decade of surveying Catholics on their views on this, CARA found there was never a significant impact in Mass attendance or affiliation with the church. And all the actors playing the reporters — Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Brian d’Arcy James — give compelling performances, too, showing how the story affects their lives, too.

The stars of “Spotlight” — Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, Brian D’Arcy James — are just as cool but successful in different ways on a different stage. “Spotlight” reveals just enough about the journalists to make them sympathetic, flawed and accessible. They aren’t a stereotypical evil corporation needing to be taken down; the film wisely paints them away from the profoundly negative they could’ve. There was a decline in donations to bishops and diocesan financial appeals initially, but donations bounced back to pre-scandal levels by 2006, Gray said. But in doing so, “Spotlight,” like other films that take on real-life stories, engages in something that is anathema to journalism — making up characters and dialogue.

When someone calls with a serious allegation of wrongdoing in high places, you think of reasons not to chase the story: The caller sounds a little sketchy, the documentation sounds too hard to find, the likelihood of someone talking on the record too slim. The caveat employed by filmmakers is that most elastic of phrases, “based on a true story.” But in the interest of transparency, that sort of disclaimer should be augmented with the words “but we reserve the right to make stuff up.” The real problem highlighted in Jack Dunn’s case is that fictional dialogue meant to highlight the obstruction thrown up by Catholic powerbrokers was put into the mouth of a real person, creating real-life consequences. They’re trying to cover things up for what they think is the greater good, of Catholicism proper, and Spotlight focuses on the investigation into the cover up.

But he did it brilliantly, giving the character an intensity that might unnerve even me.” Schrieber spoke to EW from the set of his forthcoming biopic about professional boxer Chuck Wepner, and talked about his approach to playing a man of great stature in the quietest of tones. Schreiber plays Marty Baron as a stoic outsider who stands out on his first day at the paper when he announces he isn’t a baseball fan — to the horror of the entire newsroom. And unlike Watergate, a once-in-a-lifetime, only-in-Washington sort of blockbuster, clergy sexual abuse is a story that continues to unfold in hundreds of communities and newsrooms around the world. This is a film that makes you want the Academy to have a “Best Performance by an Ensemble” because it’s a series of really good performances but nothing profoundly great.

I think it raises the specter of just good reporters going after a bad institution, into more of a question of societal deference and complicity toward institutional or individual power. I guess I have had, since starting Ray Donovan, I did a bunch of research into SNAP [Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests] and learned about the general timeline with the John Geoghan case and Cardinal Law, but that was long after the case broke. As a character, Conley is an influential business guy who acts as a fixer for the Archdiocese of Boston. “We spent enormous time researching in depth what happened in Boston — interviewing individuals, reviewing e-mails, poring over court documents. He’s also been featured on The Ultimate Fighter.com, Fox Sports.com, Nerdcore Movement.com, CagePotato.com, Inside Fights.com and Film Arcade.net (among others). Though Porter had worked in the Fall River archdiocese, south of Boston, Cardinal Law became a loud critic of the media’s coverage, and in particular, what was being printed by the Globe.

His lawyer sent a letter to the filmmakers, demanding that the offending scene be deleted from the movie, just as the movie hit hundreds of screens coast to coast. The good and dedicated people who serve the church deserve better than what they have been getting day in and day out in the media. … We call down God’s power on our business leaders, and political leaders and community leaders.

Because, you kind of hope that people still have appetites for that kind of story — as you also hope that people still have appetites for long-lead investigative journalism — but we all know that it’s a very tough market for that. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops in September drew up the guidance and statistics in anticipation of the movie’s release, said Don Clemmer, a spokesman for the bishops.

There was always a suspicion that guys like me, guys like us, were sniping unfairly.” Matchan encountered the same resistance. “After I finished that magazine story, I thought, there’s so much more to say about this. Dozens of U.S. church leaders have in the past few days been offering answers in the form of public statements, with some primarily focusing on the survivors and others casting the scandal as fully in the past and framing the church as the leader today in a society that hasn’t fully dealt with the problem. And I wrote a book proposal, she sent it out to a lot of publishing houses, and she got back these letters that just said, ‘This is a great proposal but nobody would ever read a book about sexual abuse by the clergy.’ That was the thinking in those days.” “Every archdiocese is in a city with a major paper — everybody missed this,” says Robinson. “Who can imagine that such an iconic institution could be responsible for causing such a devastating impact on the lives of thousands of children and covering it up? I think if an actor leads in a story like this, you think, “What a great performance.” But you really come away from this movie just thinking about this incredibly important journalistic resource is in our culture. I think we found that incredibly heroic, because that also was the interaction we had with him.” Robinson has been front and center in the film’s promotion, in part because the film captures his profession at its best, at a time in 2015 when most newspapers and media outlets are slashing staff and eliminating investigative reporting. “We’re reporters and we stumble around the dark a lot,” he says. “We start out pretty damn ignorant, and we don’t even know how to ask the right questions until we sort of dig around for awhile.

And by doing it that way, by having us uncover [our initial oversight], Tom makes it possible for a pretty large audience to confront something that they might otherwise avert their eyes to.” But looking at me, sitting in his office, he was probably thinking, “What the hell is this guy who plays on Ray Donovan, whatever the hell that is, going to do with me?” And that would make anyone run for the hills. Whatever those questions that they had, about his spirituality or his sexuality or whatever, were the questions of desperate gossips trying to defend themselves from the truth.

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