Spotlight (2015) Review

Last weekend, I tried to catch up on watching some Oscar nominees. Of the Best Picture nominees, I’d already seen Mad Max: Fury Road (awesome), Room (amazing), and The Revenant (pelts!). I went to Spotlight & then what I really wanted to see was The Hateful Eight but it was sold out & I was stuck having to go to The Big Short instead. Were Spotlight & The Big Short worth my time? Let’s find out. I’ll review Spotlight today & The Big Short on Wednesday. 

Spotlight (2015)

Directed by Tom McCarthy

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film follows The Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, the oldest continuously operating newspaper investigative unit in the United States, and its investigation into cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic Priests. It is based on a series of stories by the real Spotlight Team that earned The Globe the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

My Opinion:

Yes, Spotlight is a good film. It’s very much “Oscar material”, so I can understand why it’s up for awards. Is it the BEST MOVIE EVER?? No. Is it one of those Best Picture nominees that people will barely remember ten years from now? Hmm. Yes, I think so. Sorry. It’s pretty much your typical “serious true story” made into a Hollywood drama just in time for Oscar season. I mean no disrespect to the unthinkable true story behind this film but, judging it just as a film as opposed to the topic the film covers, it’s indeed a solid piece of filmmaking but is certainly not up there with some of the absolute classics that have been nominated for Best Picture in the entire history of the Oscars.

But, yes, it’s at least worthy of a nomination (for Best Picture – not so much for the acting categories). Sorry to start out sounding so negative – I promise that I have nothing bad to say about this movie from here on out (I’ll save my negativity for my next review). I’ll talk about all the things that I thought were good about Spotlight. There’s honestly nothing at all bad about it – I think my negativity is aimed more at the Academy being so out of touch with the general public nowadays. But I’m getting ahead of myself again – that complaint belongs in the review I’ll be posting on Wednesday. I apologize to Spotlight – I think it’s just unfortunate that I saw it on the same day that I saw The Big Short!

Spotlight takes a serious issue and, thankfully, doesn’t exploit it. Movies based on true stories can often take things too far down that tearjerker, emotional DRAMA(!!) route and quite often end up feeling insincere. The story focuses mainly on the Spotlight team of investigators as opposed to the actual victims of sexual abuse by their priests and I think that was the best way to approach telling this story. We don’t need to see the abuse or get specific details – just knowing that such a thing could happen and that it was so widespread is bad enough. It disgusts me that adults in a position of trust can betray children in such a horrible way. But back to discussing the movie itself, not the topic it covers…

I liked this film’s approach as I’ve never been a fan of over the top melodrama and I think the quiet & subdued performances in this are much more realistic. However, it also felt like any professional actor could have played any of the roles in this film so I’m quite surprised that both Mark Ruffalo & Rachel McAdams are up for acting Oscars. I don’t think they have any chance of winning. It’s not because they’re not both good in this (they are) but these just aren’t exactly defining roles. Actually, the best performance here may be from Stanley Tucci in a small role. 

I think the Academy too often confuses “worthy topic” with “good filmmaking & acting”. But a lot of what I’m saying may also be down to my own personal preference – I like a worthy film now and then but I most often watch a movie for escapism so will almost always choose sci-fi, fantasy, etc, over a dramatic true story. The story behind this film is a very important one so it’s great that they did a Hollywood film about it as that’s (sadly) sometimes the only way the public becomes fully aware of a certain topic. But, for me personally, after watching movies like these I often feel like I’d be better off just watching a documentary (if one exists) instead of the Hollywood version of true events. Spotlight is a good film, though, and most certainly one you should watch if you like the genre and want to see how they’ve handled the story.

My Rating: 7/10

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47 thoughts on “Spotlight (2015) Review

  1. I like true story’s, but for me spotlight lacked power. I wouldn’t nominate this film, but then I wouldn’t have nominated Room although both films are good. My belief is that if it’s Oscar nominated then it really has to be great in some way.

    • I’m so glad people actually seem to be agreeing with me! πŸ™‚ I felt bad not overly praising this film. It IS good but, yeah – just not Oscar material. However, I loved Room so, personally, I’d have nominated that one. πŸ˜‰

  2. This may as well have been a documentary – and would have been better in that format IMHO. Great performances, but such bland direction and storytelling made it a bit of a drag for me.

    Don’t get how this is ‘Best Picture’ material. Like you, I hate melodrama, but other than one Ruffalo moment, there was almost nothing that made the story watchable.

    • I really was worried that people would disagree with me on this one so I’m glad that people seem to be agreeing so far! πŸ™‚ Yes, it’s “good” but certainly not “great”. I’m glad they skipped the melodrama but, as you say, it also didn’t make for a Hollywood film that was exactly a “must see”. :-/ Whereas I can’t stop recommending Room to everyone I talk to! Stunning performances.

    • Thanks! πŸ™‚ To be perfectly honest, this one can wait for Netflix. Unless you’re someone who likes to see all the Best Picture nominees before the Oscars. πŸ˜‰ I used to try to do that! I can’t be bothered anymore. THINK I managed it once…

  3. Good review! I like what you said about the Academy too often confuses β€œworthy topic” with β€œgood filmmaking & acting”. I think Spotlight is a good film and worth watching but it doesn’t strike me as “Best Picture”. πŸ˜€

      • I did indeed! Although I didn’t understand Bales nomination over Steve Carell. I will write my review soon, but I think it will be at odds with yours. That’s what makes reviewing films so fun to do and discuss πŸ™‚

      • Hehe. Uh oh. I wasn’t complimentary! πŸ˜‰ But it’s one of those reviews where I think I was just in a REALLY bad mood when I wrote it. Lol. I thought about changing it a bit but I think I’ll keep it as is. Mainly, I was just a bit bored by it. But I didn’t look into who directed it until after I bought the ticket and I really didn’t like his other stuff, like Anchorman, so I think the movie just wasn’t really for me. Let me know when you review it! πŸ™‚ Mine will be on Wednesday.

  4. Great review and analysis. I agree with a lot of your points, like acting won’t win, and Tucci may have best performance here (loved Liev Schrieber too). Really, it’s the under the hood stuff that works so well, like the restraint you mentioned. The pacing and storytelling is really top notch. There’s so much dense material to cover. They structured it amazingly. Michael Keaton didn’t need to break the 4th Wall once, like the dumbed down Big Short (looking forward to that review). Hahaha.

    • Thanks! πŸ™‚ True – Schrieber was quite good too. I don’t normally like him! It was all good. It was just….. Only “good”. I suppose. πŸ™‚ Bwahaha – damn The Big Short and all that breaking of the fourth wall! That works in certain movies but just pissed me off in that one. Yeah… I kind of trashed that movie. Hope I don’t piss anyone off. πŸ˜‰

  5. Great review lady! I really want to see this because it looks interesting and has gotten a lot of praise, but I totally get what you are saying with a lot of movies being good, just not worth the praise heaped on them. Pfffffff, you are just biased when it comes to Tucci πŸ˜› I liked this review – short, to the point, and you hit on some good topics. We will discuss this again (maybe, if it is worthy) after we eventually get it.

    • Thanks! Ha – I do like my Tucci. πŸ˜‰ Yeah, I really need to make all my reviews this short. It’s only because I actually had it as a double post with The Big Short then decided to separate them. Yeah, this is worth a watch but can certainly wait for a home viewing. πŸ™‚

  6. Am I the only one who disagrees with u here???

    I loved this movie, the story, the pacing AND yes the under the radar performances are what made it so great to watch.

    The star is the story, NOT the actors and it’s a true ensemble piece (which is what the academy also loves)

    Cant wait to read ur skewering of The Big Short tomorrow, because i hated it too πŸ™‚

  7. I actually think this is one of those films that covers an important topic that’s handled brilliantly. It’s well-written and well-acted all around, and I think it’d linger long after the credits roll. As Rob mentioned above, I like that the story takes center stage, not the actors. The performances lifted the story and made it compelling and memorable. I like The Big Short too, but I think this one is a superior piece and not as sensational.

    • Well, Rob is very happy that you agree with him! Lol πŸ˜‰ Oh, I do think it’s a good film, it’s just not the “cinematic epic” I kind of have come to expect from classic Oscar winners of the past. But I also know that “true story dramas” have never been my type of thing so I know part of it was just that it’s not a very “me” movie. But I definitely agree that this is superior to The Big Short! Far superior. πŸ™‚ But The Revenant says Oscar-winner to me the most (even though it’s also not my type of thing).

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  9. To me Spotlight was hands down straight 5/5 movie. Way better than e.g. The Revenant. Ruth and Rob already said everything else to be said about this one. πŸ™‚ As soon as I’m not sick anymore (and feel like being a bit more creative) I’ll write my review as this one deserves to be discussed.

    • Cool – I can’t wait to read your review! πŸ™‚ Let me know if I miss it – I don’t get much time to read blogs lately. See, I think The Revenant is the far superior film, although it wasn’t to my taste. But it FEELS like an epic, cinematic experience. The cinematography is beautiful. Those have just always been the type of movies that I see as Oscar-worthy classics. I think it’ll be remembered 20 years from now in a way that Spotlight won’t. However, Spotlight is still a good film – I admit that true story dramas have just NEVER been my thing. πŸ™‚

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