Rated 4.0

John Patrick Shanley’s adaptation and direction of his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play has its creaky moments, but the excellence of the original material and of the performances it yields is not easily diminished. At a Catholic school in the Bronx in 1964, a young nun (Amy Adams) reluctantly persuades her principal (Meryl Streep) to suspect and then accuse a progressively inclined parish priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of sexually abusing the school’s lone black student (Joseph Foster II). With an efficiently strategic scarcity of direct evidence, and Viola Davis raising the stakes in a powerful turn as the boy’s mother, Shanley assembles the perfect laboratory for a rhetorically precise inquest into moral authority—not to mention a sensational Streep-Hoffman showdown. Theatrical? Sure. But that’s why they call it a movie theater.