Friday, February 24, 2012

Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara received her surprising (?) first Oscar nomination for playing Lisbeth Salander, an extremely sharp and kind of antisocial hacker detective in the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Most people were surprised to hear Rooney's name among the Oscar nominees, especially over Tilda Swinton, who had received all the important precursor nominations for We Need to Talk about Kevin. I, myself, wasn't shocked by her nod at all. Although she doesn't come off in the interview who's pushing really hard for Hollywood's appreciation, I find the backlash against her totally disgusting (SERIOUSLY, HOW WOULD  ANYONE REACT WHEN ASKED ABOUT PIERCINGS IN THEIR INTIMATE PARTS?). I suppose she's a real dark horse in the race and I can even imagine that she becomes third after Meryl and Viola. 

To my mind, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fantastic movie and I was really pissed not to have seen it among the Best Picture and Director nominees (seriously, The Descendants????). Many people are bitching about it, constantly comparing it to the Swedish version. I think it was right for me not to watch that movie as I was able to avoid comparisions with the new one (and yes, I'm planning to watch it). All the nominations it received were well-deserved (though I had some issues with the editing, it's ironic that it has the best chance of winning the Oscar). Furthermore, Reznor-Ross score was once again brilliant after their Oscar winning, fantastic work in The Social Network. 

Most of us got to recognise Rooney Mara's talent in her brief, but effective performance as Erica Albright in The Social Network. Even in those short scenes, she displayed such a marvelous range as an actress: she fantastically showed so many sides of Erica. Still, people were quite stunned to see her picked to play Lisbeth Salander in the newest adaptation of a Swedish bestseller. With hindsight, for me she just seems to have been the perfect choice for Lisbeth. Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing her future as an actress. I feel that we're going to see her at the Oscars. 

If there's one word to describe Rooney Mara's performance as Lisbeth, it would be fierce. Her presence is so strong and intense, it just impossible to take your eyes off her. Naturally, her look in itself is quite unusual to say the least, which helped her a lot to steal the spotlight from the others. Daniel Craig, with his very ordinary character and twice as much screentime, doesn't get to be half as significant as Rooney since whenever we get to see Rooney, it's like being kicked on the ass with Lisbeth's boots. She's far from being desperate to gain attention, she actually does very minimal acting and she's almost on the edge of being robotic and incredibly dreary but somehow (thanks to her natural charisma) she managed to make Lisbeth thoroughly interesting (something that many people would argue with, I'm sure).

In many ways, I consider Lisbeth Salander to be a character very much like Mark Zuckerberg (not a coincidence that Fincher directed both films). They are the people of the future: by nowadays' standards and values rude, unkind and antisocial people who also happen to be geniouses. What makes them sort of superior to their companion is their lack of vanity and the need of getting constant feedback. While Daniel Craig's and Andrew Garfield's character constantly need being praised, pampered and mentioned, Lisbeth and Mark don't really give a damn about fame or money (as long as they can buy a new computer). In my humble opinion, Rooney Mara perfectly realised this (among other things). The perviously mentioned coldness and minimal acting serves the purpuse of the movie excellently. Rooney avoided overemoting or overdoing the tough, even merciless aspect of Lisbeth. She pretty much found a perfect balance, while also making Lisbeth a vulnerable woman.

Rooney's first scene gives a spot-on summary of the rest of her performance: we instantly get to know Lisbeth's character, her behavior among other human beings. Her entrance is so great, in my opinion, that it almost rivals that of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (though it's far from being an Elizabeth Taylor entrance). I realised that Lisbeth herself is a very thankful part for actresses, obviously with the right talent any young actress could have played it well, but for me it's more important how well Rooney played her. And I just loved how vulnerable she made Lisbeth.

There are so many heartbreaking moments involving her. Although I find the storyline with her paralysed guardian a bit useless, Rooney totally nailed Lisbeth's devastation and sadness without being overdramatic. However, it's the scenes with the repeated assaults of her new guardian that are incredibly terrifying and shocking. First, it's because of their nature (watching that particular scene is incredibly hard), second because of the fact how well Rooney played Lisbeth's desperation and humiliation. I just have to add right now that her big revenge is just as hard-to-watch and shocking (not that the son of a bitch didn't deserve it). Lisbeth is a vulnerable woman, but if needed she can be a revengful predator with incredibly cool behavior.

Furthermore, I also loved the wonderful sense of humor that Rooney put into the Lisbeth character. Her "I don't give a f-ck" attitude is played to perfection by Rooney: she succeeds in making Lisbeth somewhat likeable or at least enjoyable to the viewer, which can also mean that she avoided playing the point of Lisbeth, but I see it in another way. It's hard not to laugh out loud in the scene with the librarian woman, but then again we get to see Lisbeth suffering and getting in trouble. I don't know if this means a great sense of humor and irony on Rooney's side or my the situation and the character's original coolness.

Rooney doesn't overdo Lisbeth's brilliant, fast mind, either. Whenever we get to see her working is just a wonderful moment: her rapidity and sharpness is incredibly impressily shown by Rooney. She doesn't screw it up by being a "traditional movie genious" so to speak. She really shows how a wonderfully complex and brilliant mind of this woman works.

As I said, the thing that Rooney mostly succeeded in is showing Lisbeth's vulnerability and especially her vulnerability as a woman. Her chemistry with Daniel Craig is just excellent, they almost set the screen on fire. We can see two generations and two ways of thinking meeting. It's obvious that they become involved with each other, it all just seems natural. Plus (I know many disagree), Rooney is incredibly sexy and attractive (despite being a bit too skinny). Lisbeth is hardly anybody's type of woman and yet there's something irresistably attractive about her.

To sum up, Rooney Mara gives a wonderful, impressive and very complex performance as Lisbeth Salander. What may seem robotic to others is just pure greatness for me. She brilliantly portrays her character's vulnerability and humiliation, but also her cool and incredibly exciting personality. She shows so many sides and reveals so many layers of this woman so effortlessly that she might come off as doing no acting at all. Minimalist, excellent, sizzling, sexy performance that gets

What do you think? 


Anonymous said...

That makes the ranking so interesting. After reading all the reviews, I still doubt if your pick will be Viola or Rooney. I'd like you to pick Rooney Mara, I have to say it xD

Louis Morgan said...

I am not crazy about her performance, I don't think she is bad, but I don't think she is amazing here either.

Also I would say some of the backlash against is warranted particularly her instant hate for the previous work she did. Not that I think Nightmare on Elm Street is a good film, but her attitude toward it was a bit pompous.

Cole said...

I love love love your review, for me she deserved a 5! I know it's hard to compare her to meryl in Sophie's Choice and jessica Lange in Frances or another who has 5 and you can say I'm a bit too generous, but I don't know, I was devestated by her performance! I saw the swedish version, and no offense to noomi rapace, but Rooney nails this performance! Roomi was too feminine, and sexy for the role! the role needs someone who is androgyne and not a sexualise performance as roomi did! and the movie overall is a great, I was sad that it was snubbed in best picture and director!! what a piece of work!

I don't see this version as a remake but more as a different way to tell the same story! the movies are differents!
It will always be debate because it's all subjective, but I prefer the american version.

dinasztie said...

Cole I love love love your comment. :)