Mary Magdalene | Chicago Reader

Mary Magdalene

This is a peculiar biblical drama in that it communicates very little feeling for religious experience. Helen Edmundson and Philippa Goslett’s script portrays Mary Magdalene as a headstrong, chaste young woman who joins up with Jesus and the apostles out of personal spiritual conviction. It comes off as very 21st century—one always gets a clear sense of how Mary is growing as an individual, even though the depictions of religious ceremony are muted and awkward. Director Garth Davis (Lion) adopts a generically arty approach, filming much of the action handheld and eliciting annoyingly sincere performances from his cast. Neither Rooney Mara (as Mary) nor Joaquin Phoenix (as Jesus) are especially compelling; in fact the film contains Phoenix’s first bad performance in over a decade. Phoenix tries to emphasize Jesus’s human rather than his divine side and downplays Jesus’s self-doubt and oratorical skills, but his subtlety results in a dull, dispassionate performance.

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