I previewed the movie last night at a screening for Catholic Leaders and I went in very skeptical.
But I have to say I really liked this movie--which I think paints a description of Mary and Joseph's fears and hopes well--even if it's pure conjecture on the writer's part.
There are many "foreshadowing scenes" which I thought were well done. Scenes of crucified bodies on the roadside, Mary washing Joseph's feet while on the journey to bethlehem, and a nod to the empty tomb when the soldiers look for the baby Jesus in Bethlehem only to find a piece of swaddling clothes in the manger.
There's one ridiculous scene where a snake bites Mary's donkey when they try to cross the river--an obvious link with "the fall." I just thought it was a bit too much--as I did with all the big music swells. Every time we see Herod you hear music like he's Darth Vader...as if we needed that. It insults the viewer to the max.
In all, I think the movie was a huge tribute to St. Joseph played by Oscar Isaac, who clearly steals the show. The three wise men are very much like 3 wise guys who often have great one liners. Keisha Castle-Hughes, plays Mary and overdoes it at times but often hits the mark--trying desperately to juxtapose the image of the Saintly Blessed Mother and a poor peasant girl in Nazareth. Elizabeth is also well played by Shohreh Aghdashloo.
For the pious in us...it's all there...Animals, shepherds, wise men, the manger and the dreaded star in the East. For those of us looking for a more reality based look at first century Nazareth there's plenty that takes us beyond the scriptures to attempt to see what could have been at hand.
This movie won't go down with the best of the all-time holiday movies most likely...but I think it is one that you should check out on the big screen and not wait for Blockbuster.
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