Rachel McAdams' New Movie Spotlight Will Make You Want To Cheer

Photo: Andrew H Walker/REX USA.
Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams have reporting chops. Not just from playing members of a Boston Globe news team that investigated systemic sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in the spectacular Spotlight, but because of how diligently they studied the real-life versions of their characters.

Directed by Tom McCarthy (Win Win), the movie premiered at the Toronto Film Fest last night, and the actual journalists from The Boston Globe's Spotlight team came on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre to vouch for Ruffalo and McAdams. “I always knew Mark Ruffalo was a great actor, but I didn’t know he was a great reporter,” said Michael Rezendes, whom Ruffalo plays in the film. “The guy learned more about me than I ever wanted to tell him.”

Ruffalo chimed in: “Just like you.”

Earlier, Sacha Pfeiffer, played by McAdams in the film, talked about how the actress wanted to mine every detail of her life. “She wanted to know everything: what I ate, how I grew up, the jewelry I wore, what I thought,” Pfeiffer told the audience. “I found out today in an interview that sometimes when we were together, she would try to drop behind me to capture my gait exactly. This is how good they are. They could have played us any way they wanted, and a handful of people who knew us would know, and they wanted to get us exactly right.”

Spotlight is easily one of the best films I’ve seen at the festival. At times, the movie operates like a crash course on investigative journalism: The characters are seen doing their due diligence, asking the right follow-up questions, and being firm but sensitive with their sources. High school journalism advisers will show this one to their students. But, even though the movie is pleasingly lean, don’t think that means it lacks humanity. It doesn’t really devote much attention to the nonprofessional lives of its subjects, but it gets in their heads to show why and how they go about their demanding jobs. It’s a film that will make you want to break out into applause even before the credits roll (which the audience here did Monday night) and fume with anger as you watch the reporters discover how the Catholic Church both willfully ignored and buried the scandal.

In addition to honoring the victims of abuse, Spotlight celebrates good old-fashioned, dogged reporters. "Most of you know that newspapers are in probably dire health these days, hurt badly by the internet and finding the right economic model to succeed," said Ben Bradlee, Jr. (who's played by John Slattery). "And we appreciate how much this film shows the importance of good journalism, particularly investigative journalism, and so few papers are doing that anymore, so we particularly thank you for that."

In paying tribute to the journalists on stage, Ruffalo said that journalism is a “big part of what democracy is.” He added, “This has to be vibrant and it has to be courageous and it has to be as independent as these people were in order for the world to remain decent.”

If there’s one film I’ve seen at TIFF that feels like it deserves an Oscar win, it’s Spotlight. Go see it when it comes out. And take notes.
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