*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Most of the caviling which has appeared here so far falls under the
twin rubrics of "Too Holy" or "Not Holy Enough". Bosh.
Most Christian movie makers are amateurs at anyone's religion, including their own, if not their craft, so the best we can hope for in most cases is "Good Enough." If Hardwicke replaced the "The End" with her signature, it's only because "The End of the Beginning" was used up by Winston Churchill half a century ago; she could hardly have done anything else.
There is one glaring tool mark that even I could notice: The shepherds and Wise Men line up to the left and to the right, leaving a clear aisle for the camera's widest lens to view the Holy Family unobstructed by little people. Call it Hardwicke's Persian flaw, but this was clearly a Hallmark Moment, or perhaps December on a Baby Jesus calendar for 2008.
In other respects, Hardwicke, like Peter Jackson, has only to do a reasonably competent job with one of the most-loved stories in the world to be thought a genius, which she does, dotting the iotas and crossing her taus faultlessly. This puts the burden of carrying off a role which mainly calls for Mary to sit on her ass squarely on the slender frame of Keisha Castle-Hughes, who will be damned for being an unwed mother (like Mary) or damned for failing to emit a visible halo (like, when she was a slip of a girl, Mary). Let's face it, the Mother of God is a tough act to follow. But I give Castle-Hughes high marks for stepping into the Fiat about as faultlessly as her role calls for, and Hardwicke even higher marks for putting Castle-Hughes' face behind the mask of the Immaculate.
If there's any justice in the world, Castle-Hughes will come out of this role a millionaire, and the DVD will sell for centuries to come. I choked up during the Fiat, and I give the credit to that kid from New Zealand.
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