May 29, 2017

So, who is Rooney Mara, and why is she Lisbeth Salander?

By Sean O’Connell Did you have to Google Rooney Mara when you heard she’d scored the coveted Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s planned “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” remake? Did you hit up her IMDB page?

You’re likely not alone. Mara isn’t a household name. She’s certainly not as recognizable as some of the other actresses who were reportedly in the running for the part. Natalie Portman and Kristen Stewart were the biggest stars in the running. Even Carey Mulligan could point to her recent Oscar nomination (for “An Education”) and her upcoming turn in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” sequel when it came to backing up her acting resume.

But Mara? There’s not much to discuss. Not yet, anyway. She first caught my eye, quite literally, as the scantily clad roommate of Michael Cera’s girlfriend in “Youth in Revolt.” And to be honest, it was Mara’s figure, and not necessarily her acting chops, that stood out in the very small part.

Though Mara has other films and TV spots to her credit, audiences got their longest look at the actress in Samuel Bayer’s new “Nightmare On Elm Street.” It wasn’t pretty.

Mara played Nancy, a part that put Heather Langemkamp on the map (to a certain degree) when she went toe-to-toe with Freddy in her dreams. Mara’s performance, however, was more of a nightmare. She gave a low-wattage turn – very strange for a scream-queen part. She also barely connected with her co-stars. I didn’t leave “Nightmare” forgetting Mara’s performance. I walked away notably turned off by her lack of energy.

And Salander, if nothing else, is an energetic force to be reckoned with.

So is Mara the right choice? Only Fincher knows. And he did just work with Mara on “The Social Network,” so maybe we’ll see something in that picture when it opens later this fall that convinces us why Rooney was Right for Lisbeth.

Because it takes a lot more than a tattoo to play Lisbeth Salander.

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About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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