‘Mary Magdalene’ Review: Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara Drama is the Definition of a Mixed Blessing

For 14 years, the heathens of Hollywood have struggled to build on the lightning-strike success of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” with its bizarre combination of torturous piety and throat-grabbing showmanship.

Gibson infamously became persona non grata shortly after submitting his softer 2005 recut; the studios’ initial response – 2006’s “The Nativity Story,” overseen by a pre-Twilight Catherine Hardwicke – sunk without much trace; the gap in the market came to be flooded, and eventually saturated, by those evangelically funded indies (of which 2014’s “God’s Not Dead” remains the most prominent) preaching wholeheartedly, if not always so elegantly or competently, to the converted.Universal’s “Mary Magdalene” might, then, be counted as the first serious mainstream reckoning with faith for almost a generation.

Toplined by the ever-committed, never-smiling pair of Rooney Mara and Joaquin Phoenix, helmed by “Lion” director Garth Davis, and produced by the team behind “The King’s Speech,

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