Mary Magdalene 2.0 stars

Mary Magdalene movie poster

Fifteen years after Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, director Garth Davis offers a sort of spiritual and tonal counterpoint: a Jesus story that stresses what might be called the more feminine aspect of his visit to earth — told, fittingly enough, through his relationship with the woman whom the Gospels say was the first witness to his resurrection. Where Gibson made a visceral action drama that sought to illustrate the prophetic claim, “He was crushed for our transgressions; by his stripes we were healed,” Davis has produced a muted, stately mood piece that concentrates on Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with the titular Magdalene being the first to grok the idea that it must be a spiritual — if still earthly — kingdom, built by acts of love and mercy instead of revolution and violence. (Here, she is opposed by both Peter, who thinks he’s joining a rebellion, and Judas, who longs for the return of the his beloved dead.) As Mary, Rooney Mara gets to do a lot of wide-eyed gazing — in love, in awe, in confusion, and in sorrow — and Joaquin Phoenix manages to get at the strangeness that a God-man probably would have radiated. Both do better when they’re not speechifying — the script tends to skew oddly modern in manner of expression — and are left to get on with the work of salvation. It’s a well-meaning, good-looking effort — but those elements don’t necessarily make for good watching. One needs to be in the mood for this sort of thing. 2019.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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