Director: Abel Ferrara
Writers: Abel Ferrara, Mario Isabella, Simone Lageoles, Scott Pardo
Cinematography: Stefano Falivene, Abel Ferrara
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Modine, Heather Graham
Studio info: Surreel, 83 mins.
Over-the-top Biblical mess intrigues as only Abel Ferrara can
Louder and more chaotic than its material seems to warrant,
Abel Ferrara’s Mary
seems like the condensed version of a much larger movie. It includes scenes from a religious epic, TV interviews, street fights, limo rides, infidelity, hypocrisy, apostasy and conversion, but at a mere 83 minutes it’s over before it really begins.
Forest Whitaker plays a TV host examining the historical Jesus on a nightly broadcast, and Matthew Modine is the director and star of an unconventional Biblical film. Modine agrees to appear on Whitaker’s show, boosting both their careers, but one person they can’t yoke to their PR efforts is Juliette Binoche who plays Mary Magdalene in Modine’s movie. She’s been so transformed by the experience that at the shoot’s end she drops everything and heads to Jerusalem.
Very little of this mess works in any conventional sense, but as the performances begin to redline—as Whitaker bottoms out and begs God to save his child and Binoche takes to the water like a fisher of men—the movie examines the relationship between performance and contrition. All the characters are actors; some are trying to open a channel to God while others are putting on a show intended to earn some grace. It’s a fitting topic for Ferrara, whose movies frequently embrace the same contradictions. They’re all here in Mary—the excess, the guilt and the search for truth. Intriguingly jumbled with some assembly required.