Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 87%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 71%
IMDb Rating 6.6 10 1636


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February 28, 2018 at 05:01 AM



Dianna Agron as Sister Mary Grace
Denis O'Hare as Archbishop McCarthy
Liana Liberato as Sister Emily
Margaret Qualley as Sister Cathleen
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2.06 GB
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2hr 3 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Lugo1989 7 / 10

Complex issues well handled

Novitiate is a very solid debut film for Margaret Betts. It covers many themes from religion, faith, doubt, love, and internal turmoil of young girls who decide to devote their lives to God. The writing is good and the story moves fluently throughout the entire film with the exeption of maybe the last few minutes where things slow down a bit. Another positive thing about the writing is that it does not try to attack the church or ever turns into an anti-religion type of film. Everything is explored realistically. Especially the feelings of young girls who sometimes question their choices and ask themselves if it is really worth it. It is essentially a story about love, giving love, sometimes losing it and receiving it back. A vast topic but handled really well in my opinion. Another thing worth mentioning are the performances. All the actresses give great performances with Melissa Leo and Julianne Nicholson being the standouts. Recommended for that, good writing and solid direction.

Reviewed by rockman182 7 / 10

Novitiate (2017)

Think Nun Story, but without Audrey Hepburn. Not related, but I really liked that film. Anyways, Novitiate intrigued me because I have a knack for checking out independent releases and this seemed like something that could offer a deeply dark film about a religious crisis and the implications presented, in an environment where it is sacrilegious to have those types of feelings. That sentence probably made no sense, but I will say that Novitiate pleasantly meets its expectations and brings forth strong performances all around.

The film is about a group of young girls who pledge themselves to become nuns. The film takes place somewhere in the early 70's, so there were many taboo elements including discovering sexuality that were just frowned upon at the time, especially at a Catholic school. The mother superior in the film is stern and cold but times are changing and the students discover the tolls that their pledged lifestyle takes on them and find out who they really are.

Margaret Qualley and Melissa Leo are just stellar in this film. Leo is always consistently good and she is just born to play the roles such as the Reverend mother in this film. The set and costume design is sleek and seems authentic for the time period and religious backdrop. Its a film that questions religion and how much of ourselves we can give to God. I find it interesting that the filmmaker had such a creative effort and if there were any personal influences in making the picture.

There is a crisis of faith and exploring human sexuality, which directly interferes with the practices of the sisterhood in the film. Its a good watch, although I think the film could have been shorter. It doesn't always work and probably will fizzle out as the year goes on but for real film lovers like myself its something to check out and form an opinion for.


Reviewed by Turfseer 5 / 10

Salacious view of pre-Vatican II monastic life saved by Leo's over-the-top Mother Superior from hell

Novitiate is sort of like a piece of candy. It tastes good but you know it's really not good for you. This is first- time feature writer-director Margaret Betts take on Catholic monastic life just as it's about to go through a tremendous upheaval due to the reforms enacted by Vatican II under the tutelage of Pope John XXIII.

Like all good melodramatists, Betts' vision of the Catholic church is pure good and evil. She has an inordinate amount of sympathy for her protagonists, the young nun postulants and their mentors and an over the top disdain for an evil mother superior from hell.

Betts' opening scene is the weakest in the film. She introduces us to her goody-two-shoes protagonist 17 year old Cathleen (Margaret Qualley), in the home of two bickering parents, the outspoken mother played by a rather good Julianne Nicholson. The dialogue between the parents is laced with profanity and the domestic discord is wholly generic in nature--suggesting that Betts didn't bother to take any time to flesh out her characters at this juncture.

Fortunately our break into the Second Act comes rather quickly and we're thrust into the action centered in a Catholic monastery in the Midwest circa 1964. The withdrawn Cathleen disappoints her non-religious mother Nora by her decision to enter the convent. There she meets another saintly character, Sister Mary Grace (played by the most attractive Dianna Agron of Glee fame) who shares her pristine devotion to God and love of ritual which most people in the outside world would look down upon.

The setup is to present the fledgling novitiates as pure, chaste, do-gooders who become victims at the hands of the vicious Reverend Mother, deliciously played by Melissa Leo who virtually saves the film from complete mediocrity. Yes it's disappointing that Betts doesn't have a shred of sympathy for the Mother Superior and her enforcers and presents them as one-dimensional, stereotyped martinets. But by the same token, Leo is so over the top in her portrayal of calculated viciousness that we end up feeling great enjoyment at "hissing the villain." Thus Betts has successfully incorporated the primary directive of the melodramatic screenwriter's lexicon: make sure your villain is effective-the more evil, the better!

Contrary to the pronouncement of numerous critics, the machinations of Sister Cathleen and her buddy postulants, fail to make for compelling drama as their pious devotion is all rather perfunctory. There's the expected lesbian dalliance with Sister Cathleen in need of some tender loving care at the hands of a recently transferred novitiate, as well as the completely unbelievable scenario of one of the nuns entering a chapel and stripping completely naked (in Betts' view, the repression is so intense that this would lead one of the nuns to do such a thing!).

No it's strictly when we focus on the Reverend Mother that Novitiate has any gravitas at all. Pure goodness in the form of Sister Mary Grace resigns because she simply can't take the Reverend Mother's unflinching, cruel treatment of her innocent charges. And watch Leo pounce when she humiliates her nuns-in- training at the Chapter of Faults, a group meeting where novices kneel on the floor, confessing self-failings.

Sister Hosea Rupprecht of the Catholic News Service bemoans how Betts' depiction is manipulative and presents an unfair understanding of the ritual: "This aspect of monastic life was meant to encourage rigorous morality, and keep the community healthy by cleansing it of festering secrets. Yet, as portrayed here, it will certainly strike even some Catholics as extreme. All the more so, since Reverend Mother manipulates the process to her own ends."

Perhaps the most enjoyable scenes are where the Reverend Mother gets her comeuppance, first at the hands of a priest who's been sent to chastise her for failing to enact the Vatican II reforms and then by Cathleen's Mom, who notes that her daughter has lost a great deal of weight and threatens to pull her out of the convent if nothing is done.

Novitiate does well in providing us a nice history lesson in regards to the effect the Vatican II reforms had on the church. Nonetheless, Betts chooses to present an extreme view of monastic life and fails to capture both the good and the bad in her characters. For a more nuanced depiction of Catholic devotees, see Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird"-where sympathy for the characters is much more paramount as well as balanced.

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