I am like totally bisexual for Rooney Mara. When I first saw her on the October 2011 cover of American Vogue, I had no idea who she was but I was all, Yes ma’aam!* Rooney stared back at me with pale skin and unnaturally black hair, sporting a short black dress and this edgy, asymmetrical haircut. And you know I love me some asymmetrical haircuts! But what arrested me about her the most—and I’m not being ironic—was the fact that she arrested me. Every day it seems like there’s some brand new celebrity getting all up in my E! News gossip. But what’s the point of manufacturing all these celebrities if none of them have any oomph? If Hollywood is the big box of celebrity, the fact is that presence is the most important thing the celebrity can have, a trait that, unfortunately, a lot of them lack. For Rooney Mara to arrest me from the flatness of a magazine cover—without knowing anything else about her aside from what the cover image told me— says a lot about her magic and potential.
I’ve seen the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo three times. Do you know how difficult it is to willingly sit through rape scenes and neo-Nazi’s thrice? I just had to see the outfits again. When the previews for Tattoo came out, I didn’t know who Rooney was or even what the movie was about—I didn’t read the books. But I remember thinking the actress looked amazing, so I obviously needed to see it. Piercings. Studded ears. Gauges. Tattoos. Everything in black.
After seeing Tattoo the first time, I had the same feeling about RooMa’s performance that I did about Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Within the first 30 minutes of TDK I remember whispering to my friend, “Wow, who’s playing the Joker” and he was like Heath Ledger and I went whoa are you serious? In much the same way, I was stunned when I learned that the actress playing Liz Salander in Tattoo was in fact not Swedish, as I thought, but very American and really rich. Rich as in, “Oh Hi! My family invented football!” rich. I Googled her as soon as I escaped the theater and was even more mesmerized by the fact that, first of all, she hadn’t really done much as an actress aside from that role in The Social Network; and second, she had a drastic makeover from this image of American Pie/Princessness to this more sophisticated, edgy, power-bitch thing.
Style pundits, including the ever fabulous and perpetually fur-coated Joan Rivers, have commented invariably that Rooney is doing this edgy look too frequently, but I have to disagree. She is purposefully shying away from the image of her rich family heritage by embracing unnaturally black hair and a cooler, alterna-chic look as a way to rebrand herself. If the sleekness of her new look is any indication, my hope for RooMa is that the next role she takes will be interesting and will lift that sleekness up to the next level.
Good for Rooney for joining Meryl Streep and Viola Davis as an Oscar nominee in the Best Actress in a Lead Role category. No new actress deserves to be nominated more than she does. My friends have argued with me up and down that Rooney is a “good” actress, just not that great. It’s easy to play a dark badass who hates society, they say. But when I think about similar recent femme fatale flicks—Angelina Jolie in Salt or even Zoe Saldana in Colombiana—I didn’t get that same inexplicable, gut feeling from their performances. To my mind, those are not performances worthy of Oscar nominations.
Rooney, it’s all up from here. Spend your talent wisely.
* = Things black gay guys say.